A hit of caffeine from morning coffee or an afternoon energy shot may be OK for adults, but can prove problematic for children.
What is Caffeine?
You can find caffeine in coffee, soda, ice cream, chocolate, energy drinks, medication and more, but contrary to popular belief, it’s not a nutrient. Instead, it’s a naturally-occurring stimulant that effects our central nervous system — brain, spinal cord and nerves.
In can help us feel more alert, awake and energetic, but too much can cause depressions, restlessness, nausea nutrient absorption deficiency, increased anxiety and sleep problems. Kids have an especially low tolerance for caffeine, which means even small doses can be unhealthy.
In a recent study, kids who consumed the most caffeine also slept the fewest hours. And in a tragic and rare occurrence, a teen died from caffeine overdose earlier this year.
The FDA recommends that adults limit caffeine intake to 400 mg per day, which is roughly four to five cups of coffee. There aren’t any FDA recommendations for kids, but there are a couple other sources that provide good directions. Health Canada recommends that children 12 years old and younger limit caffeine intake to 45-85 mg per day, depending on a variety of other factors. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any caffeine consumption.
How Much Caffeine?
Starbucks Coffee (tall, 12 oz.) = 260 mg
Starbucks Espresso (solo) = 75 mg
5-hour energy shot (2 oz.) = 200 mg, extra strength = 230 mg
Rock Star (24 oz.) = 240 mg
Red Bull (8.46 oz.) = 80 mg
Coca Cola (12oz.) = 34 mg
Tea (8 oz.) = 48 mg
Hot chocolate (12 oz.) = 20 mg
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream “Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz” (1 cup) = 100 mg
OTC Tablets (per tablet) = 200 mg
The Bottom Line
If you’re kids aren’t consuming caffeine, then help them keep it that way. If they are, look at ways to cut back and make lifestyle changes to minimize or eliminate caffeine. Recognize that there may be withdrawal symptoms like headaches, drowsiness and irritability, but these will go away as caffeine intake decreases. Less is more when it comes to caffeine.
Primary Children’s Hospital ranks among the best children's hospitals. Located in scenic Utah, everything in our hospital is focused on providing the best care for children. For more than 90 years, we have been committed to helping children, families, and communities across the western United States.