Local News

Working 4 You: Kids and caffeine

SPOKANE, Wash. - A teenager's tragic death has caught the attention of parents nationwide.

16-year-old Davis Cripe collapsed in class after drinking a Diet Mountain Dew, a coffee, and an energy drink--- within a two-hour period. He had a cardiac episode, and died. Davis was described as a healthy kid, and an autopsy revealed no undiagnosed heart problems.

Caffeine overdoses are rarely fatal. But, as coffee and energy drinks become popular among high school and college aged kids, Cripe's death was enough to beg the question: How much is too much?

“Caffeine itself is not the issue, it's whether it's being done in excess or not, and it does tend to be something that people can be excessive with,” said Jen Ropp.

Ropp is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Rockwood.

The recommended daily amount of caffeine for adults is 400 milligrams a day, which is about four regular cups of black coffee.

“It's a reasonable amount, but definitely caffeine is something people tend to overdo, whether its in the form of an energy drink or a soda or a cup of coffee,” Ropp said.

Ropp told KXLY today that there actually isn't an RDA for caffeine for kids, because they're not supposed to be consuming it. As a dietician and a mom- that's a rule she follows. 

“Well, I have a seven-year-old so nothing, no caffeine. Absolutely not. And, you know, who wants a hyper kid,” she said. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests 100 milligrams per day for kids between aged 12 and 18. Ropp says that's a vague, unofficial guideline.

“Just like any other medication or stimulant or additive it's just something you shouldn't overdo.

Caffeine is a drug, though a legal one, and it can have addictive effects. But ease of access, and the ability to purchase caffeinate drinks without a legal age requirement means more kids are consuming it often and in larger amounts.

“I just had a ten year old that was drinking three diet sodas a day,” Ropp said.

Bottom line: Ropp says , like many other things in life, caffeine is fine for adults in moderation.
We all need a little boost sometimes, but be smart about your caffeine consumption.

“If you're going to do something for the caffeine, do it for the caffeine, and avoid the other stimulants just because they're not as carefully regulated,” she said.

Energy drinks are the more worrisome of the caffeinated drinks though, to their credit, some do include warnings in their cans.

But, that caffeine can be dangerous isn't “news”. Parents know it, and kids are taught about caffeine in school.

According to the Washington State Learning Standards approved in 2016 (they are in the process of being adopted)students will be taught to identify the difference between healthy and unhealthy drinks as early as kindergarten.

In fourth grade, the curriculum hammers home caffeinated and sugary drinks, but those in between years are spent looking at the importance of drinking water, and being able to identify the elements of a nutrition label- all things that will supplement their nutritional education.