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Is Caffeinated Soda OK for Kids?

My son is always asking for caffeinated soft drinks. Is it OK to let him have them?
- Marla

It's a good idea to keep caffeine consumption to a minimum, especially in younger kids. The effects of a caffeinated beverage on a child will be much more pronounced than on an adult because kids weigh less and are still growing and developing.

Caffeine is a drug that's naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It's also made artificially and added to certain foods. At lower levels, caffeine can make people feel more alert and energetic.

In both kids and adults, though, too much caffeine can cause jitteriness, an upset stomach, headaches, and sleeping problems. Especially in young kids, it doesn't take a lot of caffeine to produce these effects. Caffeine also can aggravate heart problems and some behavioral and nervous system disorders.

Because of the concern about the adverse effects of caffeine, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages caffeine consumption for all children. The United States doesn't have guidelines for caffeine intake and kids, but Canadian guidelines recommend that preschoolers get no more than 45 milligrams of caffeine a day. That's the average amount of caffeine found in a 12-ounce (355-milliliter) can of soda or four 1.5-ounce (43-gram) milk chocolate bars.

It's also good to remember that too many sugar-sweetened drinks (with or without caffeine) can lead to obesity and dental cavities.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2013