How much caffeine is too much? Should kids have caffeine at all? Le Bonheur Dietitian Nichole Reed, RD, states that it’s important to understand the effects caffeine can have on kids. She tackles the topic below.

How much caffeine is safe for kids?

Safe caffeine consumption in children is based upon weight. So, a 60-pound child can tolerate 60 milligrams of caffeine in 24 hours. However, the problem lies in the amounts of caffeine found in many products. Working in the Healthy Lifestyle Clinic at Le Bonheur, I’m all too familiar with some of our kid’s favorite caffeinated drinks.

For reference, here are the amounts of sugar and caffeine found in popular drinks. Many have more caffeine in one serving than a child needs in an entire day.

  • Starbucks Frappuccino Beverage (Bottle): 75 mg caffeine | 31 grams
  • Starbuck Mocha Frappuccino (Grande, 12 fluid ounces): 110 mg caffeine | 62 grams sugar
  • Regular Soda (12 fluid ounce can): 34mg - 55mg caffeine | 30-55 grams sugar
  • Coffee, black (6 fluid ounces): 115 mg  
  • Coffee, black (6 fluid ounces), with 1 tablespoon of sugar: 115 mg | 12.5 grams sugar
  • Red Bull Energy Drink (12 fluid ounce can): 115 mg caffeine | 27 grams sugar
  • Monster Energy Drink (16 fluid ounce can): 160 mg caffeine | 54 grams sugar

The other problem with these drinks: added sugar. The upper limit of added sugar a day is 25 grams per day. As you can see above, most of those drinks exceed that limit.

What are the biggest concerns with too much caffeine?

For one: sleep. A study in the journal Pediatrics found that 75 percent of children consume caffeine on a daily basis -- and the more caffeine children consumed, the less they slept. Sleep is critical for all but children and adolescents require more sleep than adults, up to 9-10 hours. Watch Le Bonheur’s Facebook Live on sleep recommendations.

Plus, evidence suggests that if you have a child who already has an anxiety disorder, the effects of caffeine make it worse. Just as in adults, too much caffeine can cause many unnecessary side effects: 

  • jitters and nervousness
  • upset stomach
  • headaches
  • difficulty concentrating
  • trouble sleeping
  • increased  heart rate
  • higher blood pressure

The bottom line: practice label reading and looking at the caffeine (and sugar) content of your child’s drinks. You might be surprised by what you find!