How much caffeine is safe for kids, teens and adults?

Posted at 6:49 PM, May 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-16 19:04:51-04

An expert from University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions is warning parents to be more aware of their kids' caffeine habits after a 16-year-old boy died from drinking massive amounts of the drug.

Davis Cripe of South Carolina reportedly drank an energy drink, a McDonald's cafe latte and a large Diet Mountain Dew--all in the span of two hours--before collapsing at his high school and later dying.

Miller said this is an unusual case, since authorities say Cripe had no underlying medical conditions that may have contributed to the heart arrhythmia that ultimately killed him. According to Miller, people typically wouldn't die from ingesting that amount of caffeine.

"Different people react to caffeine differently," Miller explained. "This was an outlier event, an unusual event. I think it is a red flag for a lot of us that we should start taking caffeine a little more seriously."

Most people don't think of caffeine as a drug since it is so commonly used, and since people of any age can access it, but that's exactly what Miller reminds people it is.

"The fact that most of the time we're able to use it without hurting ourselves doesn't mean it isn't a drug," she said. "Doesn't mean it isn't potentially risky. Doesn't mean parents shouldn't be keeping an eye on how much caffeine their kids are taking in."

Doctors recommend no more than 100 mg of caffeine for a child up to age 16 in a given day. For adults, 400-500 mg is considered safe to consume over 24 hours.

But Miller warns that energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine (some advertise 240 mg per can) and are becoming more and more popular with young people. She's noticing a trend of young adults consuming energy drinks similar to how they would soda.

"Energy drinks are about three times stronger than most soft drinks," Miller said. "And this is something, by the way, most parents don't realize. They see their kid drinking a Red Bull and think it's just a jacked-up Pepsi."