In the past three years, more than 2,000 children under the age of six were taken to hospital in the US alone suffering from the effects of the popular drinks, a study has revealed.
Their symptoms included serious cardiac problems – including abnormal heart rhythms – or neurological problems such as seizures and fits.
Professor Steven Lipshultz, paediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, said most cans of energy drink contain enough caffeine to cause a child potential harm.
‘Exposure to energy drinks is a continuing health problem,’ he told the American Heart Association at a meeting in Chicago last night.
‘You normally think of teens and young adults as most likely to drink them, but we found that half of calls to US poison control centres involved unintentional exposures by children less than six years old.’
High-caffeine energy drinks carry labels on their cans warning they are not suitable for children or pregnant women – but few retailers actively stop children buying the cans.
Professor Lipshultz will say: ‘Energy drinks have no place in paediatric diets, and anyone with underlying cardiac, neurologic or other significant medical conditions should check with their healthcare provider to make sure it’s safe to consume energy drinks.’
The doctor said a child under 12 could be poisoned if they consume more than 2.5mg of caffeine for every kilogram of their body weight – enough to make most energy drinks potentially dangerous to children.