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April 2016 | Volume 6, Number 4


Energy Drinks

To see Children's of Alabama experts discuss this topic, click here.

Energy drinks are becoming increasingly popular due to claims they provide a competitive edge. Unfortunately more and more children and teenagers are drinking them, which can lead to some serious health concerns.

Ann Slattery is with the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama. She says between 2014-2015 they received 152 calls regarding children, mostly between the ages of 13-19 years old, suffering toxic effects from energy drink consumption.

“They contain caffeine, and they also contain herbals that are like caffeine like Yerba Mate, Guarana and Kola Nut. And these are not listed as caffeine but they add more caffeine to the drink”, she says.

Some of the negative symptoms associated with energy drinks include:

  • Agitation
  • Tremors
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Slattery says there’s also concern because of evidence on a national level that children as young as five years old are gaining access to and consuming energy drinks that are in the home. “They’re being left out, they think they’re cola, they’re drinking them. They can have severe symptoms, cardiac problems as well as seizures,” she says.

Exposure of Young Children Can Cause

  • Severe Cardiac Problems
  • Seizures
  • Hospitalization

Aside from these risks, energy drinks contain a lot of sugar and caffeine- sometimes as much caffeine as in 1 to 3 cups of coffee. Excessive caffeine comes with its own set of problems — especially in younger kids, it can negatively affect attention and concentration.

Slattery also warns parents to be on the look out for a substance called Kratom. Kratom is sometimes added to energy drinks but also sold alone. She says, “At low doses it’s a stimulant and at high doses works like a narcotic, it can cause CNS (central nervous system) depression so they can become drowsy or even comatose.”

Kids who participate in sports should learn that they can improve their game through hard work and practice — values that will serve them well both on and off the field. Eating well, staying hydrated, exercising, and getting enough sleep will help them feel energized. Parents should teach their children just because something is sold in a store doesn’t mean it’s safe.  Encouraging kids to believe that they need something "extra" to perform at their best is a slippery slope that may lead to the use of other performance-enhancing substances. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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