Energy Drinks Dangerous to Children

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Research presented at an American Heart Association meeting reveals that children face serious and possibly deadly side effects from the consumption of energy drinks.

Between 2010 and 2013, poison control centers received more than 5,000 reports of people who got sick from energy drinks, NBC News reports. The researchers noted such serious side effects as seizures irregular heart rhythmor dangerously high blood pressure, in a presentation at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2014. Children younger than 6, too young to know what they are drinking, consume energy drinks they find in the refrigerator, according to Dr. Steven Lipshultz, pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and co-author of the study.

Energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster Energy and 5-Hour Energy contain caffeine along with additives such as vitamins, herbal supplements, sugars, and creatine. Most contain about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee – about 100 mg. – but some have much as 500 mg. Studies have suggested that energy drinks – even with extra ingredients – do not improve energy or concentration any better than a cup of coffee does, according to NBC News. And large amounts of caffeine can cause adverse effects serious enough to require medical attention, according to a federal report.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that emergency room visits for symptoms related to energy drink consumption doubled between 2007 and 2011, reaching 20,783 in 2011, according to The New York Times. Dr. Lipshultz and his colleagues noticed the increase and began to track data from poison control centers worldwide and in 2011 they reported that illnesses associated with energy-drink consumption had skyrocketed. In analyzing reports from poison control centers between October 2010 and September 2013, the researchers found 5,156 cases had been reported to poison control centers, with about 40 percent of the cases involving children younger than age 6, according to NBC News.

In 2011 the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report strongly discouraging energy drink consumption by children of any age and, in a joint study with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommended that only caffeine-free beverages be available in schools, according to the Times.