Energy drinks for kids: Doctors warn of health risks

Energy drinks and kids: Too much caffeine

CINCINNATI - Malachi Neal is a sophomore on the basketball team. And like a lot of other teens, he likes the taste of energy drinks, especially 5-Hour Energy and Red Bull.

But ask some health experts about their feelings on kids guzzling energy drinks, and the response isn't so positive.

Dr. Shelley Street Callender is a sports medicine specialist at Children's Hospital in Michigan.

She says more research needs to be done as to how energy drinks affect children, but she says they weren't meant  to be used by children.  And even adults can get hyper-stimulated.

In her opinion, some energy drinks just have way too much caffeine in them for kids. She says in some cases it's equivalent to three or four cups of coffee.

And it's not just caffeine.  Dr. Callender says they have herbal substances that are also stimulants, so kids who drink energy drinks might be getting three to five times the stimulation that they should really be having anytime during their day.

She says all that stimulation can result in dangerous health risks for kids, like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness and fainting.

Neal says he's only consumed energy drinks a few times and never had any problems. His grandmother just doesn't want to chance it.

"When they're growing like this, you have to look at what they're putting in their body," she said.

"We don't know how much caffeine is healthy for a child. We don't know what kind of ramifications they'll have in the future," Dr. Callender said.

So when it comes to kids and energy, here's what this doctor tells her patients:

  • Get more sleep. Get children in a regular pattern before bedtime to help them sleep.
  • Explain to them that if they use healthier drinks to hydrate, they will perform better.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also discourages the use of high-calorie sports drinks such as Gatorade.  They say it increases the already serious risk of obesity in our children.

Another problem with sports and energy drinks for children is that they replace milk at a crucial time of bone growth.

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