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Health Information For Parents
Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and other food and drinks.
Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system. It affects kids and adults similarly and, at lower levels, can make people feel more alert and energetic.
Foods and drinks with caffeine are everywhere, but it’s wise to keep caffeine consumption to a minimum, especially in younger kids.
In both kids and adults, too much caffeine can cause:
Especially in young kids, it doesn’t take a lot of caffeine to produce these effects.
Here are some other reasons to limit kids’ caffeine consumption:
Caffeine sensitivity refers to the amount of caffeine that will produce an effect in someone. On average, the smaller the person, the less caffeine necessary to produce side effects. However, caffeine sensitivity is most affected by daily caffeine intake.
People who regularly drink beverages containing caffeine soon develop a reduced sensitivity to it. This means they need higher doses of caffeine to achieve the same effects as someone who doesn’t drink caffeinated drinks often. So, the more caffeine kids take in, the more caffeine they’ll need to feel the same effects. In general, kids are more sensitive to caffeine than adults and can feel its effects for up to 6 hours.
Caffeine is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It’s also made artificially and added to certain foods. Kids get most of their caffeine from sodas, but it’s also found in coffee, tea, chocolate, coffee ice cream or frozen yogurt, as well as pain relievers and other over-the-counter medicines. Even iced tea can contain as much sugar and caffeine as soda.
Here’s how some sources of caffeine compare:
Sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Soft Drink Association
Can you keep kids caffeine-free? Absolutely! The best way to cut caffeine (and added sugar) is to eliminate soda. Instead, offer water, milk, or flavored seltzer; you also can serve 100% fruit juice in small amounts. You can still allow the occasional soda or tea — just make it decaffeinated. Watch for hidden caffeine by checking the ingredient list on foods and beverages.
The best way to reduce caffeine intake is to cut back slowly. Otherwise, kids (and adults) could get headaches and feel achy, depressed, or just downright lousy.
Someone cutting back on caffeine may feel tired. The best bet is to hit the sack, not the sodas: It’s just a body’s way of saying that more rest is needed. Don’t worry — energy levels will return to normal in a few days.
As with everything, moderation is the key to keeping your kids’ caffeine consumption under control.
Find out what the experts have to say.
Dehydration is when the amount of water in the body has dropped too low. Read about what causes dehydration, what it does to your body, and how to prevent it.
Our bodies need water to work properly. Find out more in this article for kids.
Should kids have caffeine? And what is it exactly? Find out in this article for kids.
Caffeine has probably helped you through long nights of studying or filling out college applications. But how much do you know about caffeine and its side effects?
Here are answers to some common questions about what breastfeeding mothers should and shouldn’t eat and drink.
Sleep problems can keep some teens awake at night even when they want to sleep. If that sounds like you, find out what you can do.
All living things need water to survive. Find out more in this article for kids.
Sometimes kids lose fluids and salts through fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating. Here are some tips on preventing or treating dehydration.
Headaches affect kids as well as adults. Learn about common causes and when to talk to a doctor.
When you get a good night’s sleep, it’s like giving your body a tiny vacation. Find out the scoop on sleep in this article for kids.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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