There is caffeine everywhere right now, but it is wise to keep caffeine to a minimum for kids. While the United States hasn't developed guidelines for caffeine intake in kids, Canada has, and they recommend preschoolers don't get more than 45 mg of caffeine a day. That's the equivalent amount of caffeine in a 12 oz. can of soda.
Caffeine is actually defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system. At lower levels, it can make people feel alert and energetic, but when kids get too much caffeine, same with adults, you can feel jittery and nervous. It can make your stomach upset. Kids can get headaches. They can have a hard time concentrating. Instead of feeling more alert, kids are actually so wired that they can't focus. It definitely decreases their ability to sleep. It also increases the heart rate, and it really does a number on blood pressure. It raises blood pressure.
It doesn't take a lot of caffeine to produce these effects in kids. Adults, you need more, but in kids, not so much. If your child has been drinking a lot of soda and caffeine, abruptly stopping it can cause withdrawal symptoms. Again, it's a drug. You can get withdrawal from it. We talked about the headache, they can also get muscle aches, feel temporarily depressed actually because they just feel really slow and down and sluggish, and kids who also abruptly stop caffeine can be very irritable.
Someone who is cutting back from caffeine is going to feel tired. And the best way to get over that tired hump is to get some sleep. Don't reach for a soda or more caffeine; you're just going to set yourself backward. What your body is doing is it's saying, "Hey, I know you're cutting back on the caffeine. I need some more rest." Don't worry; the energy levels that you are looking for, they'll return back to normal in a few days once your body gets the caffeine out of your system.
How do you get your kids to cut back on caffeine? It's not easy. Instead of offering sodas, things like that, offer milk, water, fruit juice in small amounts. I usually say about one juice box a day. You could also make sure that everything that you're serving for the kids is convenient. It's really easy to pick up a bottle of soda, twist the top, or pop the lid open and drink something. Well, have water and things like that in squeeze bottles, make it fun for them.
The bottom line is, as with everything, moderation is the key to keeping your kid's caffeine consumption under control.
updated: February 28, 2022
originally published: September 15, 2014
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