Can My Child Drink Coffee?
Coffee and other caffeinated beverages are increasing in popularity every day. Adults, college students and even some teens consume caffeine to get through their days. But is it a good idea to give caffeine to children or teens?
The Food and Drug Administration says that 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is a fine amount for healthy adults. As a general rule, you can assume that an average 8-ounce cup of coffee contains around 100 milligrams of caffeine. Several sources suggest that 400 milligrams of caffeine, or 4 cups of coffee, are safe for most healthy adults. Most children are smaller than the average adult, so it takes less caffeine to affect them. The impact of caffeine on the nervous and cardiovascular systems of children and adolescents is not fully known and for this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents and children not consume energy drinks or other caffeinated drinks or drinks that contain other stimulants.
Caffeine Side Effects
Sources of caffeine include many sodas, coffee, tea, energy drinks and foods such as energy bars and chocolate. Consuming too much caffeine can cause sleep problems, mood and behavioral issues (panic, anger, anxiety), and potential health issues such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure and acid reflux. After long-term use, there is also the possibility that a child may become too dependent on the effects of caffeine and experience symptoms of withdrawal such as headaches, exhaustion and the inability to concentrate. Caffeine can be dangerous for kids, and in high doses, it can be toxic.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, caffeine overdose includes the following symptoms:
- fast heart rate
- upset stomach
- a feeling of unhappiness (dysphoria)
While some people truly enjoy the taste of high-quality coffee, some people consume coffee and other caffeinated beverages to compensate for a lack of sleep. Adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night. For children ages 6-12 years, that requirement increases to nine to 12 hours. For ages 13-18, the amount is eight to 10 hours. If your child is struggling with getting enough rest every night, consider introducing healthy sleep habits into their life. It is important to ensure that child practices healthy sleep habits, including simple behaviors before bedtime.
Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime and limit light exposure in the evening. Powering down will stimulate the natural melatonin production in your body. The blue light from electronic devices (cell phones, television screens, computer monitors) decreases your body's natural ability to produce melatonin and promotes wakefulness. You can also create a calming bedtime ritual to signal sleep to your child’s body, such as taking a bath, reading a book and keeping the bedroom quiet and at a cool temperature.
Sometimes the trouble with concentration and exhaustion goes beyond improving your child’s sleep schedule. They may be dealing with other issues such as a sleep disorder, depression, stress, anxiety or other health issues. If your child has trouble focusing or concentrating, they may have an underlying cause that needs to be addressed by a medical professional. Whatever the case may be, it is recommended for you to consult your child’s pediatrician to determine the best course of action for your child.
Make an appointment with a pediatrician at Ochsner Health.