Should Kids Drink Caffeine?

Q: Is it OK for my 9-year-old son to drink caffeine?
— Lucy R.

Rachel Barraco, R.D., L.D.

Rachel Barraco, R.D., L.D.

A: Caffeine is fine as an occasional treat for children; it’s only a problem when it becomes a routine. If your son is drinking caffeine daily, try to offer substitutes like water or low-fat milk. If he does drink a caffeinated beverage, make sure it’s not after lunchtime so it doesn’t impact his sleep schedule.

All parents should be aware of their children’s caffeine consumption. Studies indicate that 77% of youngsters ages 5 to 12 drink caffeine daily, with 8- to 12-year-olds consuming the amount equal to three cans of soda.

The caffeine drinks kids typically consume, which often replace healthier beverage choices, are frequently higher in calories and sugar and more likely to lead to excessive weight gain. Those who regularly consume caffeine also may feel jittery, experience headache or stomach issues, or have trouble concentrating. Plus, the lack of sleep associated with caffeine can ultimately lead to additional health problems for youngsters, such as increased blood pressure.

— Rachel Barraco, R.D., L.D., a clinical dietitian at Children’s

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