Caffeine And Kids

from Yolanda Evans, MD

Is that latte safe for your child?


With the increase in coffee shops and vending machines selling caffeinated sodas, more and more children and teens are drinking caffeine.  Caffeine consumption in adults has been a normal past time and is widely accepted.  People use caffeine for many reasons, including help with concentration, to wake up in the mornings, and for the taste.  Most studies in adults show that small to moderate doses (like a cup of coffee) in adults are safe.  However, there are very few studies of the effects of caffeine on children and teens.


Children and teens are not simply ‘little adults.’ Their bodies are growing quickly and their brains are developing.  We do not know how caffeine might affect these processes in kids.  What we do know is that caffeine is often paired with sugar.  Whether it is in the form of a cola, a latte (most coffee beverages), or an energy drink, caffeinated beverages and sugar go hand in hand.  High consumption of sugary drinks is associated with being overweight. In addition, caffeine is a stimulant.  It can cause a racing heartbeat, shaky hands, nausea, as well as disrupt sleep. Sleep is extremely important for growth and brain development in children.


What parents can do:

  • Know what is offered at the vending machines in your child’s school.  Many schools now have vending machines that offer alternatives to sugary and caffeinated soda. Talk with your child about healthier beverage options.
  • Limit consumption of caffeine containing beverages at home.  Offer your kids water, juice (in small amounts), or milk instead of caffeine containing soda.
  • If you go to a café, avoid ordering your child the coffee containing drinks (including those mixed with ice cream or crushed ice).  Instead offer your child an option that does not contain a lot of caffeine and sugar such as water or hot chocolate.  If you do provide a sugary or caffeinated beverage, limit the size to the smallest one offered.



Temple, J. Caffeine use in children: what we know, what we have left to learn, and why we should worry

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2009 Jun;33(6):793-806. Epub 2009 Jan 20.


Pennington N, Johnson M, Delaney E, Blankenship MB. Energy Drinks: A New Health Hazard for Adolescents. J Sch Nurs. 2010 Oct;26(5):352-9. Epub 2010 Jun 10. Review