Doctors warn of energy drink dangers during summer months

By Brandi Cummings - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Each year, children become victims of heat related illness. Doctors say in most of those cases, a combination of some kind of supplement and the heat is what causes the problem.

These days many children and teens are choosing energy drinks as part of their daily diet.  Doctors warn there can be some dangerous consequences if usage is not monitored.

The flashy colors and eye catching names are enough to boost your child's interest, but physicians want parents to be aware of what is in those drinks.

"The caffeine in these drinks is way too much for young kids," according to Dr. Elizabeth Mack, Pediatric Critical Care Physician at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital.

A typical cup of coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine, a soda has about 40 milligrams of caffeine, but some energy drinks have up to 500 milligrams of caffeine. Some of the cans pack several servings.

"The problem with that is that kids can become caffeine toxic," Mack says.

And that leads to many other problems.

"(It) can cause nausea, vomiting, tremors, sleep problems, even seizures, and very important to us, can cause dieresis," said Mack. "In other words, it's like taking a water pill. You can urinate yourself into a state of dehydration."

Dr. Mack says it's especially important this time of year for parents to watch their kids and know what they're drinking.

The combination of energy supplements and extreme workouts can lead to deadly consequences.

"Usually every year we'll have children come in with heat stroke from dehydration," said Mack. "Typically they are playing sports, they're not drinking much in the summer and sometimes these energy drinks or other caffeinated products can be involved--weight loss supplements, diuretics, that sort of thing."

Doctors say when doing any outdoor activity, start drinking water, then progress to drinks with electrolytes.

If a child seems to be over heated, put him or her on the sideline.

"It's really important for parents, trainers, coaches, kids to be sure that the children are hydrated and not overexerting themselves," Mack adds.

Many of the supplements in energy drinks are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there's no telling how much of the ingredients they contain.

Doctors say you or your children should only take supplements under a doctor's care.

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