Kids and caffeine
Caffeine is found in a variety of products -- not just coffee, tea, chocolate, cola and certain medications but also energy drinks and so-called energy shots. So how much caffeine is too much for kids?
Canadian children aged 1 to 5 get about 55% of their caffeine from cola drinks, 30% from tea and about 14% from chocolate. The rest comes from other sources, including medicine.
Adverse effects of caffeine
It's hard to link levels of caffeine to specific health effects because everybody has a different tolerance for caffeine. For healthy adults, a small amount of caffeine has positive effects, like increased alertness and concentration. But some adults are more sensitive, and a small amount for them could cause insomnia, headache, irritability and nervousness. Children are at increased risk of experiencing behavioural effects from consuming caffeine.
Common effects of excess caffeine include:
- Muscle tremors
- Increased heart rate
- Higher blood pressure
Protect your kids
The maximum daily caffeine intake for kids under 12 should not exceed 2.5 mg/kg of body weight. Based on average body weights of children, this means a maximum of:
- 45 mg for children aged four to six, about one 355ml can of cola
- 62.5 mg for children aged seven to nine, about one and a half 355ml cans of cola
- 85 mg for children aged 10 to 12, nearly two 355ml cans of cola
Adolescents 13 and older, should follow the precautionary recommendations of 2.5 mg/kg body weight. Older and heavier adolescents may be able to consume up to the adult limit: 400 mg/day.
|Beverage||Caffeine content approximations|
|Cola||31 mg||46 mg||77 mg|
|Coffee||150 mg||225 mg||375 mg|
|Tea||43 mg||65 mg||108 mg|
|Green tea||30 mg||45 mg||75 mg|
Did you know...
Where does caffeine come from?
Caffeine is a natural ingredient found in the leaves, seeds or fruit of a number of plants. It can also be manufactured. Caffeine, whether synthesized or extracted in pure form from natural sources, can be used as a food additive in some carbonated drinks, and as an ingredient in certain drug products, such as cold and headache remedies. It can also be directly added to certain natural health products, such as energy drinks.
Energy drinks claim to give an extra boost of energy from caffeine and herbal ingredients. They are not recommended for children, pregnant or breastfeeding women or caffeine-sensitive people.
Energy drinks can be high in sugar, vary in caffeine limits from 50mg - 200mg per dose, and sizes can vary from 250 mL to 473 mL. Some varieties may have higher caffeine content, as they contain caffeine from herbs like guarana and yerba maté. The herbs may be listed as ingredients, but not their caffeine content. Currently, caffeine is only required to be added to labels when added as a pure substance. Carefully read the labels of all health products you consume, including energy drinks, and follow label instructions.
Over-the-counter medications may contain caffeine -- some as much as 1000 mg in a daily dose. Read the label and include that caffeine content in your calculated daily intake. Also ask if caffeine consumption could interact with any of your or your child's other medications.
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