Are Energy Drinks Safe for Children?

Are Energy Drinks Safe for Children?

You see them at convenience stores, grocery stores and gas stations. Despite the known dangers of energy drinks, consumption remains high, especially among teenagers.   

According to Dr. Darby McElderry, a pediatrician at Greenvale Pediatrics-Brook Highlands, energy drinks are beverages marketed by companies that are purported to have ingredients that may boost your energy level, increase your attention and focus, and, in some cases, enhance athletic performance. McElderry says most energy drinks have lots of sugar, which can contribute to tooth decay and possible weight gain.  She also adds that most of these drinks contain caffeine.

“That’s probably the primary concern with most energy drinks is the amount of caffeine they contain,” said McElderry. “Many of these drinks contain a minimum of two to five times the amount of caffeine a soda contains.”

Caffeine is found in a variety of foods and drinks. It is estimated about 3 out of 4 children consume caffeine on a given day. McElderry says one energy drink may contain enough caffeine for someone to experience caffeine toxicity. 

“The reason why caffeine can be so problematic is that in higher doses, it can increase heart rate and blood pressure,” said McElderry. “It can also cause moodiness, irritability, poor sleep, and in much higher doses, it can actually cause seizures and abnormal heart rhythms.”

Many of these drinks also have other ingredients whose safety and effectiveness have not been tested in children or teenagers. This includes herbal supplements, guarana (a source of caffeine), and taurine (an amino acid thought to enhance performance and caffeine’s effects). McElderry also warns that caffeine is a diuretic, which causes increased urination. She says this can be counterproductive when you are trying to stay hydrated. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against caffeine for children under the age of 12. It recommends that children between the ages of 12-18 should not consume more than 100 milligrams of caffeine daily, equivalent to the amount of caffeine found in one standard cup of caffeine. McElderry says the best beverage for children to drink is water.

“Water is actually the best thing for us to hydrate with for everyone, including teenagers and young children,” said McElderry.

To learn more about the dangers of energy drinks and the difference between energy drinks and sports drinks, click here.