Dangerous Energy Drinks Being Used by Kids

Children as young as 10 years old are taking a dangerous mix of drugs and high-caffeine drinks before sports matches to get the edge on their opponents.

Leading poisons expert and deputy medical director of the NSW Poisons Centre at Westmead's Children Hospital Dr Naren Gunja said that the problem was especially rife in private schools.

Dr. Gunja warned to the alarming trend of young sports stars washing down cold treatment medicine Sudafed or pain-killer Nurofen with three cans of high caffeine drinks like Red Bull, V or Mother.

Unfortunately, these young children are doing so on the misguided belief that it will improve their performance and prevent pain from a knock in the game.

“In sporting private schools where winning is important people are using and abusing various over the counter drugs,” Dr. Gunja said.
“Drug abuse happens in teenagers, they are taking things for performance enhancement.

“I don't know exactly what regime people are on but certainly a couple of Sudafed and wash it down with a bit of Red Bull, have some more Red Bull at half time, that is about it.”

Dr. Gunja said the combination of Red Bull and Nurofen and prolonged inappropriate use in sports like rugby, soccer and swimming could cause stomach ulcers and heartburn.

The most powerful Nurofen product contains codeine, which Dr. Gunja said was an opiate similar to the stronger morphine. Abuse of Nurofen can also cause permanent kidney disease and damage.

Medics Australia paramedics and first aid officers provide medical help to thousands of children each weekend and their staff are also alarmed by a recent surge in medication abuse.

“We are becoming increasingly concerned by the incidence of children attending their weekend sports matches with caffeine-based drinks,” a spokesman said yesterday.

Emed's Comment:

Make no mistake – energy drinks are dangerous.

Some of these energy drinks are no better than illegal drugs – except that they are 100% legal, supermarket-available jolts of energy than are available to kids of any age.

Energy drinks have become big business around the world, bringing in over $5 billion dollars every year, and still growing strong. The flashy labels, catchy naughty names (cocaine, red eye etc.) and lure of fast energy and stamina make it an irresistible beverage for any child, teenager or adult.

Don't be fooled though. Though these drinks may look and even taste OK, some energy drinks contain almost quadruple the amount of caffeine than coffee – add to it the sugar and calories and the kids will be bouncing off the walls.

Too much caffeine can have serious effects on the body. We should all be reducing or eliminating the amount of coffee and caffeine we consume, but this is especially important for kids. Too much caffeine can be lethal for a growing body. Some of the relatively ‘tame' effects that too high a dose of caffeine can have include:

  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Racing heart rate
  • Palpitation
  • Seizures

Unfortunately the availability of these energy drinks results in any number of children picking up as many cans as they would like from their local store. As the government considers energy drinks as soft drinks, these highly caffeinated drinks aren't regulated properly, even allowing sports clubs and canteens to stock them.

The maximum amount of caffeine a child should have is 2.5mg per kilo of body weight. For example, a 50 kilogram child shouldn't exceed 125 mg a day. Given that some energy drinks like Red Bull contain 80 mg of caffeine, ‘V' with 78 mg and the newest craze Cocaine energy drink containing 280 mg – it's a recipe for disaster.

Combine Nurofen or Sudafed into the mix, and the potentially disastrous side-effects are increased. Not only are these medications not suitable for kids, but they are known to cause bleeding from the bowel, kidney damage and ulcers.

What else can I do?

Young athletes lose fluids during exercise through sweat and exertion. Add caffeine to the mix and the body is further deprived of fluids.

Sports drinks are not much better than energy drinks – the levels of caffeine, sugar, salt and artificial flavouring/colouring can make it a dangerous mix for kids.

Eliminate all energy drink and sports drinks. Encourage the kids to drink more water or a good quality electrolyte drink like Endurance and Rehydration Formula. If they need more energy, make them up a protein shake for before and during the match. Whatever you do – don't let them buy any energy drinks!

Are your kids feeling tired or lethargic? Chances are they aren't getting adequate vitamins and minerals in their diet, even despite your best intentions. We stock a great range of kid's multivitamins in both powdered and tablet form.

Want more energy for improved performance? Your kids may need to increase the amount of protein they consume. Protein is the basic building block for muscles, so adequate amounts are vital for recovery and performance. Try Pharmafoods IsoWhey Complete. This low-fat, low-carb, high-protein formula tastes great and is ideal for game days.

Kids waking up sore after training or a game? Magnesium is essential for muscle health and rebuilding. Often our diets are lacking in magnesium, so supplementation is essential. Mix some in with an electrolyte mix for a nutritious drink in-between games.

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