With commercial names like Red Bull, Beaver Buzz and Cocaine, caffeine-packed energy drinks have been called "coffee for kids." About 31 percent of teens say they drink them regularly, according to the consumer research firm Simmons.
But the drinks, which can pack more than triple the caffeine in a cup of brewed coffee and 10 times the amount in a can of cola, are more than kids' bodies are ready for, according to Sandra Braganza, M.D., a pediatrician with Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York who has a paper on the subject awaiting publication.
Possible side effects of the drinks include jitters, stomachache and sleeplessness. Braganza also cautions that kids who use the drinks to stay up late to study, or to have energy for sports, could become dependent and face withdrawal symptoms including headache and irritability. She advises parents to limit their kids to - at most - one energy drink per day.
"Parents shouldn't think of this as something that's a natural drink or good for their child," she says.
For more information about caffeine in various beverages, including energy drinks, check out this page from the Mayo Clinic.
Read other family health tips and updates here.
Christina Elston is a senior editor and health writer for Dominion Parenting Media.