HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The death of a 16-year-old has become a frightening reality check for parents. The teen died of a caffeine overdose.
Most people drink a cup, or two or more of caffeinated beverages without thinking twice and many caffeine drinkers start young.
“I was 13, and I've been having coffee every day ever since,” says 18-year-old Sahar Baig.
The healthy 16-year-old in South Carolina died in school of a caffeine overdose after having just three caffeinated drinks in two hours including a fast food latte, a large diet Mountain Dew and an energy drink.
”A lot of people our age have similar tendencies. So I'm pretty taken aback, because it could happen to any of us,” explains Baig.
”Especially during finals season. Caffeine is their go-to just to stay up. It's kind of scary to think that could happen so easily,” adds student Thao Doan.
”My parents didn't let me drink coffee at all until I turned 18,” says Kelsey Seybold Internal Medicine Dr. Richard Harris who reminds us caffeine is a drug, a stimulant, that can be dangerous. ”Unfortunately if you take too much caffeine in a short period of time, it can cause heart arrhythmia where the heart goes into an abnormal beat and sometimes the heart can stop,” says Dr. Harris. He also adds, ”Kids won't metabolize the caffeine as quickly. The guidelines for children 12 to 18 is only 100 milligrams of caffeine per day max, which is about a cup of coffee”.
We spoke with some Houstonians who give even their very young children caffeine.
“Now I have a different opinion. I don't think I just want to give my four-year-old caffeine now,” says Debbie Dowden.
“Caffeine shouldn't be available to kids especially in the school. It's not food. It's an addictive drug,” says Robin Haymes.
Houston area school districts I contacted do not sell caffeinated drinks in the cafeteria for breakfast or lunch, but many of the high schools do have vending machines. While coffee and energy drinks are not sold in them, caffeinated diet sodas are.
Dr. Harris is recommending parents take this time to talk with kids about caffeine and make sure they know to inform someone if they start feeling symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, feeling jittery or suffering dizziness and a headache.