Kids and Caffeine: Tips and Suggestions for Safe Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a stimulant many of us rely onto help us wake up in the morning, for an afternoon pick-me-up, or even to get a little extra energy before exercise. However, like most things, caffeine intake should be monitored to avoid potential harmful effects. This is even more crucial for children.

Can Kids Have Caffeine?

Ideally, children under the age of 12 should not be consuming caffeine at all since it is a drug that affects the functions of your body. But there are safe levels of caffeine that can be consumed based on the age of your child:

Kids aged 4 to 6 years old can consume roughly 45 milligrams a day
Kids aged 7 to 9 can consume roughly 62.5 milligrams a day
Kids aged 10 to 12 can consume roughly 85 milligrams a day

While it is unlikely parents are allowing young children to consume coffee, soda or energy drinks regularly, it is important to know that these are not the only sources of caffeine a child may consume. It is important to keep track of how much caffeine your child is consuming, and watch for harmful caffeine side effects.

Hide and Seek with Caffeine

Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to list caffeine on nutrition labels, caffeine can sneak its way into you or your children’s food or drinks without you noticing. While attempts at stricter regulations for caffeine labeling have been made over the years, products that contain natural caffeine still do not have to note it on the label. Here are some caffeinated foods and drinks to keep an eye out for.

Diet Soda

Diet soda is typically sought after due to the decrease in sugar. However, diet sodas tend to carry more caffeine than regular soda. Just a 12-ounce Diet Coke can have around 45 milligrams of caffeine.

Chocolate

Cocoa beans have natural caffeine, so while it is present, you won’t find it listed on the label. It is important to pay attention to chocolate your child is eating, especially dark chocolate, which tends to be more caffeinated. One ounce of milk chocolate can have approximately 4 milligrams, while one ounce of dark chocolate can have roughly 20 milligrams. This includes hot chocolate as well, which can have 5 milligrams per every eight or so ounces.

Over-the-Counter Medicine

Many over- the- counter medicines have caffeine in them since it is a nervous system stimulant which stimulates the brain to relieve ailments such as headaches, and cold or allergy symptoms like itchiness or drowsiness. However, for children 12 and under, over-the-counter medications containing caffeine have not been proven safe.

Be sure to consult with a pediatric provider on the safest over-the-counter medications for your child.

Effects of Caffeine on Kids

Even in moderate doses, caffeine can cause insomnia, headaches, dehydration and the slowed absorption of calcium into the bones. Drinks that have caffeine also tend to have a large amount of sugar, which can lead to additional health problems.

Caffeine is absorbed into every tissue in the body, increasing heart rate and blood pressure. Caffeine is a diuretic, which can cause dehydration, headaches, dizziness and an increase in thirst.

Additionally, caffeine affects appetite and moods. Some may see a positive mood change followed by a major crash later. Children can suffer massive mood swings or an increase in anxiety levels.

What Can Parents Do?

It is important for parents to educate themselves on the effects of caffeine, pay close attention to the amount of caffeine their children consume and where it comes from, and to observe how it affects them. Encourage your child to drink water. Do your best to offer beverages with sugar and caffeine in moderation.

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