I was shocked when my 9-year-old's new tennis shoes arrived in the mail the other day.
Enclosed with his size-4 shoes was a free sample of a well-known energy drink. I'm not talking about a sports drink here, like Gatorade, which active people use to restore the fluids and minerals that are lost during exercising and heavy sweating on hot days.
Energy drinks are not sports drinks
There with his little shoes was one of those energy drinks that, in case you're unfamiliar with them, contain a big dose of some stimulant, such as caffeine. The ads for these adult drinks, full of fun music and images of "cool" people chugging them down, make these products look appealing to children and adolescents.
Kids don't need caffeine--and it's bad for them
Although many adults might need a caffeine boost in the morning or throughout the day, children and adolescents don't. And they certainly shouldn't be getting into the habit of seeking out a jolt of energy during the day. Why is caffeine bad for them? Because if they consume too much of this drug, it can stress their hearts, raise their blood pressure, and interfere with their sleep. Energy drinks could be particularly dangerous to children if used during exercise, when the body is already being stressed.
The smaller amounts of caffeine found in sodas are also a bad idea
Some of these energy drinks have more than 500 milligrams of caffeine, compared to the 24 milligrams typically found in a soda--and I don't even recommend sodas!
And there's more: As any coffee drinker knows, attempts to withdraw from caffeine can result in headaches and fatigue, which in turn might persuade a person to go back to drinking more caffeine and even start spiraling down into a vicious cycle.
An occasional sports drink if the weather is scorching
If children become tired during exercise, they need to drink water, or take a break, or both. A sports drink like Gatorade might occasionally be okay during prolonged or extreme exercise, or when the heat is above 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you discover or suspect that your child is using energy drinks for a boost during the day, look closely at their sleep habits, diet, and schedule, and consider making changes to ensure more rest.
Watch the sodas as well
In fact, now would be a good time to evaluate how much soda your child is drinking, too. Among the many reasons that soda is not recommended for children is that many brands contain caffeine--and many teens and pre-teens know exactly which brands of soda have the most caffeine per serving. While sodas don't contain as much caffeine as the energy drinks, kids don't need any caffeine--help them break the habit!
To read more about this topic, see the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website.