Coffee contains caffeine which is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance. A 2017 report showed that 13 to 18-year-olds experienced the greatest increase in daily coffee consumption, according to the Medical News Today website.
The report referenced above shows that 37% of children in this age group drink coffee daily, an increase from 23% in 2014 and 31% in 2016.
The sources of caffeine that children consume have changed over the years. Instead of drinking caffeinated soda, they are now consuming caffeine from energy drinks, coffee, or coffee-based drinks.
The problem with kids drinking coffee is the caffeine content. Currently, there are no federal guidelines regarding the amount of caffeine children intake. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages caffeine consumption for children.
Nonetheless, Canada has some basic guidelines. They recommend the following daily limits for caffeine:
1. For children aged 4 to 6 years, the maximum intake of coffee is 45 mg or the equivalent of 1 can (355 ml) of cola or less than half a cup of brewed coffee.
2. For ages 7 to 9 years, the maximum intake of coffee is 62.5 mg or the equivalent of 1.5 cans (355 ml) of cola or one shot of espresso.
3. For ages 10 to 12 years, the maximum intake of coffee is 85 mg. The equivalent of almost 2 cans (355 ml) of cola or less than 1 cup of brewed coffee.
For teenagers, the maximum intake of coffee is 85-100 mg. According to the Canada.ca website, a child should consume no more than 2.5 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per kilogram (kg) of body weight.
Foods and Drinks Containing Caffeine
Energy drinks and sodas may contain large amounts of caffeine.
According to the Consumer Reports website, the caffeine in energy drinks varies from 17 mg to 242 mg per serving. A normal serving of coffee contains 100 mg of caffeine, while 242 mg is equivalent to almost four espressos.
Caffeine is also present in other foods and drinks:
- Tea contains 48 mg of caffeine per 8 ounces.
- Caffeinated soda contains 37 mg of caffeine per 12 ounces.
- Hot chocolate contains 10 mg of caffeine per 12 ounces.
- Chocolate contains 10-30 mg of caffeine per 1.5 ounces.
- Coffee-flavoured foods, such as ice cream, yogurt, and candy
- Flavored water and various juices
- Energy bar
- Mint, gummy candies and chewing gum.
Caffeine can be toxic if taken in very high doses.
In 2017, when a healthy 16-year-old man from South Carolina died, medical experts determined that the cause of death was a "caffeine-induced cardiac event."
The teenager passed out after drinking lattes, soft drinks and energy drinks in less than 2 hours.
Therefore, be careful when consuming the foods and drinks above so as not to exceed the maximum daily coffee intake.
Impact of Caffeine on Children's Body
According to the Johns Hopkins website, caffeine has a dose-response effect. Because children are smaller than adults, even a small amount of coffee can affect how their bodies work.
The bodies of children and adolescents are also still developing and the impact of caffeine on their nervous system and cardiovascular system is not fully known.
Too much caffeine can cause various health problems such as increased anxiety, increased heart rate and blood pressure, acid reflux and sleep disturbances.
Too much caffeine is harmful to children, and in very high doses it can be toxic.
In addition, caffeine can cause addiction. However, not everyone experiences withdrawal symptoms when they stop or reduce their caffeine intake.
People who have withdrawal symptoms may feel headaches, irritability, and fatigue.
Although caffeine does not stimulate the same areas of the brain as amphetamine or cocaine, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes caffeine-related withdrawal as a clinical disorder.
Symptoms of Caffeine Overdose
Coffee and caffeine can affect people differently, depending on weight, age, and other factors, such as underlying health conditions.
If a child has symptoms of a caffeine overdose or if they consume high doses of caffeine, seek immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of a caffeine overdose according to the Medical News Today website include:
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Ntomach ache
- Fast breathing
- Feeling irritable
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Fnxiety attacks
Parents, guardians, or other responsible persons who have concerns about their child's coffee or caffeine intake should look carefully at the labels on the products they buy to check the caffeine content.
Adults should talk to children about safe daily caffeine limits.
Anyone concerned about their child's caffeine intake can talk to their pediatrician, child psychiatrist, or other medical professional for guidance.