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HealthBeat

Teen dies from too much caffeine

A 16-year-old died last month from a “caffeine-induced cardiac event,” prompting health officials to remind parents that kids shouldn’t consume energy drinks.

The South Carolina high school student reportedly died after drinking a café latte, large Diet Mountain Dew and an energy drink in a two-hour period. He collapsed in his classroom, and the county coroner reported Monday that the boy died from a cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia, according to CNN.

“Like all parents, we worry about our kids as they grow up. We worry about their safety, their health, especially once they start driving. But it wasn’t a car crash that took his life. Instead, it was an energy drink,” said the teen’s father.

An autopsy showed no undiagnosed heart conditions and no other drugs or alcohol in his system.

“Our purpose here today is to let people know, especially our young kids in school, that these drinks can be dangerous, and be very careful with how you use them, and how many you drink on a daily basis,” Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said in a news conference.

Following the death, the American Academy of Pediatrics circulated a blog post reminding parents that kids should not consume energy.

“Some kids are drinking energy drinks – containing large amounts of caffeine – when their goal is simply to rehydrate after exercise,” said Dr. Marcie Beth Schneider, in a June 2011 report. “This means they are ingesting large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which can be dangerous.”

Stimulants in energy drinks, such as caffeine, have been linked to harmful health effects in children, including effects on the neurologic and cardiovascular systems. Because of that, they are never appropriate for children or adolescents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“In many cases, it’s hard to tell how much caffeine is in a product by looking at the label,” Schneider said. “Some cans or bottles of energy drinks can have more than 500 mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of 14 cans of soda.”

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at marissa.harshman@columbian.com or 360-735-4546.

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