What are the Effects of Caffeine on Children?

Brandon May

Caffeine is a powerful substance which is not essential in the diet, but is often used in large amounts in children and teenagers. The effects of caffeine on children can range from mood instability to uncontrolled blood sugar. Mental confusion and hyperactivity are also possible side effects. Slowly decreasing the amount of caffeine may reverse these conditions and help restore equilibrium in children's health. There are natural alternatives to caffeine that can be used to decrease fatigue and increase energy.

Sweet tea can have caffeine in it.
Sweet tea can have caffeine in it.

One of the effects of caffeine on children is hyperactivity. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and increases energy. When children consume a large amount of caffeine, however, it can result in an over- stimulation of the nervous system, leading to overexcited energy states. Due to a child's small body size, too much caffeine can exacerbate the central nervous system and promote shaking or increased nervous behavior. Excessive and chronic consumption of caffeine by children can also increase heart attack risk.

Energy drinks usually have high amounts of caffeine.
Energy drinks usually have high amounts of caffeine.

After caffeine has been released by the body and is no longer working on the nervous system, the body goes into a lethargic state. A child may experience tiredness, low energy and decreased mood after a caffeine rush. Usually the feeling of lethargy is higher than before the caffeine was consumed. These states can also lead to mood disorders and depression. Decreasing the amount of caffeine by limiting soda and energy drink intake will slowly help reverse these conditions.

Coffee is generally not recommended for children to drink.
Coffee is generally not recommended for children to drink.

Some evidence shows that another effect of caffeine on children is an instability in blood sugar. Diabetes and metabolic syndrome is a symptom of unregulated blood sugar, and over-consumption of caffeine by children may lead to these diseases later in life. Concentrated sources of caffeine from coffee or energy drinks are of major concern for increasing blood sugar instability. Caffeine stresses the body, which stimulates high levels of cortisol and blood sugar.

Black and green teas have lower levels of caffeine compared to coffee or energy drinks. Using these to wean children off high levels of caffeine is preferred, unless total abstinence is recommended by a doctor. The effects of caffeine on children can by quite strong, but there are alternatives that will provide healthier levels of energy increases. Two of those alternatives include a proper diet and exercise. These will not only increase everyday energy, but will provide other health benefits as well.

The amount of soda a child is allowed to drink should be limited.
The amount of soda a child is allowed to drink should be limited.

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Discussion Comments


Does caffeine stunt growth in children?

When I was little, I refused to have milk without a little bit of tea or coffee in it. And I'm shorter than everyone else in my family.


@SarahGen-- I completely agree with you. Sometimes though, children have access to caffeinated foods and drinks without their parents' knowledge.

I had this problem last year. My son's babysitter was letting him have caffeinated drinks when I was not home and I didn't know about it. I knew something was wrong though because my son was more hyper than usual and started having trouble falling asleep.

I kept asking the babysitter what he had been eating and drinking and she didn't tell me. Eventually, my son told me himself that he's drinking soda. I had to let the babysitter go obviously.


I don't know about other families, but in my family, children are not allowed to have caffeine. Growing up, we did have an occasional hot chocolate and that does have caffeine. But we were not allowed to have any coffee or caffeinated sodas. We mostly had milk and fruit juice.

I think this is how all children should be raised. When they are older, they can decide if they want to have caffeinated drinks or not. It's totally unnecessary during childhood though. In fact, caffeine side effects can be dangerous for children like the article said. Parents need to keep their kids away from caffeine.

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