High doses of caffeine similar to what is found in several cans of energy drinks have been described by doctors as having a ‘toxic’ effect on children.
Energy drinks are designed to increase mental alertness and physical performances for consumers by the addition of caffeine and herbal supplements such as guarana, kola nuts, and yerba maté.
Many contain substantially more caffeine per serving than do conventional soft drinks.
Of the leading brands, Red Bull contains 80 mg of caffeine per serving; Monster Energy, Rockstar, Java Monster, 160 mg each; and NOS, 260 mg.
“At a high does, caffeine can have a toxic effect on children,” said Dr Binoy Nellissery, Specialist Paediatrician at Aster Hospital, Mankhool.
“Like alcohol, at a very low dose there are few problems- but when it is consumed in higher dose, like in these energy drinks, there are problems.
“Caffeine is easily accessible, and there is no social stigma with energy drinks as there is with taking drugs or alcohol, but it can have a similar effect.”
With a heavy dose of caffeine, heart rate and blood pressure increases. In young children, it often causes a stomach upset.
“In school age children, caffeine can make them nervous and jittery, so its use must be monitored and young children should not be taking these drinks,” Dr Nellissery said.
“We have seen very high levels of caffeine intake lead to heart attacks in some children, in rare cases.
“There are some studies, but more research can be done and children under the age of 12 should not be consuming caffeine at all.
Aster Hospital, Mankhool