Water Much Better for Kids Than Energy Drinks

Caffeine-charged energy drinks are back in the news as a result of a lawsuit filed by the parents of a 14-year-old Maryland girl who died of a heart attack from caffeine toxicity after downing two cans of Monster energy drinks.

This prompted an FDA investigation into the death and others that may be linked to the Monster drink. The Monster Beverage Corporation said it “does not believe that its products are in any way responsible for the death,” and said it plans to vigorously defend the suit.

Locally, the FDA investigation serves as a reminder that health care advocates have and continue to recommend against the use of these drinks by children and teens.

Tori Sheahan, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at the School-Based Health Center at Glenridge Middle School, and Coordinator of the Winter Park Health Foundation’s School Nursing Initiative, has seen the drinks become increasingly popular in recent years and has had more than a handful of students over this time arrive at the clinic feeling anxious, dizzy and sick from the energy drinks.

She advises that parents make sure their children know it is not a healthy drink. Let them know you don’t want them to buy it, she added, and explain the hazards that come with drinking caffeine-loaded beverages.

Side effects from the energy drinks—which get their advertised spark from large quantities of caffeine and sugar—can include anxiety, irregular heartbeats and blood pressure changes, as well as sleep disturbances, according to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP).

If the child is using the energy drink to improve performance, Mrs. Sheahan said parents should explain that good nutrition and staying hydrated with water do a better job than energy drinks.

The AAP in May 2011 issued a report on sports drinks and energy drinks, explained Dr. Brenda Holson, a local pediatrician. The energy drinks contain caffeine and “are potential health risks primarily because of stimulant content; therefore they are not appropriate for children and adolescents and should never be consumed,” the statement said. And she agrees.

The report also explained the difference between sports drinks such as Gatorade and energy drinks such as Monster, Red Bull or Full Throttle.

Sports drinks, the report said, are flavored beverages that often contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes (e.g.; sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium), and sometimes