Pediatrician Dr. Steven Lipshultz became concerned about energy drinks after treating children who had become sick after drinking them. He set about analyzing data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, and found that 40 percent of poison control calls regarding drinks like Red Bull and Monster involved children under the age of six.
"Energy drinks have no place in pediatric diets," said Dr. Lipshultz, who is the chair of pediatrics at Wayne State University and pediatrician-in-chief at Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.
The findings were presented at this year’s American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. Lipshultz’s report looked at call records from October 2010 to September 2013 from 55 poison control centers in the U.S. Of the 5,156 cases involving energy drinks, 40 percent involved unintentional consumption or exposure by very young children. These data are likely to underestimate the scale of the problem, because parents of kids who become sick after consuming energy drinks may not always call poison control hotlines.
Some energy drinks can contain as much as four times the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. Caffeine overdose alone may cause adverse health effects in children, such as irregular or rapid heartbeat, seizures and dizziness. However, some of the other ingredients haven’t been tested for safety in children, or have not been tested in combination with caffeine.
Dr. Lipshultz called for better labeling information about high caffeine content, as well as continued efforts to keep energy drinks out of the hands of children.