Caffeine Excess Killed 16-Year-Old Boy, Coroner Says

What starts with ‘C’, has eight letters, and keeps you going all day? Well, we hope that isn’t all you are fueling your body with, but if you answered caffeine, you’re right. At least once a day, you probably hear someone say something like I need my morning coffee, or I can’t start my day without having my coffee first. While caffeinated drinks can be beneficial and have their time and place, they caused a tragic event this past this past Spring.

How Caffeine Caused Teen’s Death

caffeine overdose, effects of caffeine, caffeine consumption

On April 26, 2017, too much caffeine caused 16-year-old Davis Allen Cripe’s death. After consuming three caffeinated drinks – a McDonald’s café latte around 12:30PM followed by a large diet Mountain Dew and an energy drink – in two hours, he collapsed in his classroom at Spring Hill High School and was pronounced dead at 3:40PM.

Caffeine Overdose

In a news conference covering Davis’ death, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts shared that the boy “died from a caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia,” or abnormal heart rhythm.[1]

What Davis experienced was his heart being unable to pump enough blood to the body. It was this lack of blood that resulted in his brain and other organs but, most importantly, his heart to stop functioning.[2]

People may deem this an caffeine overdose. However, “this was not an overdose. We lost Davis from a totally legal substance,” said Watts. He continued, especially warning “our young kids in school, that these drinks can be dangerous, and be very careful how you use them, and how many you drink on a daily basis.”[1]

Watts went on to explain that Davis’ autopsy revealed nothing out of the ordinary. The boy didn’t suffer from any heart conditions and had neither drugs nor alcohol in his system.[1] Davis’ seemingly sober state emphasizes the severe effects that over-caffeinating can have on your body – especially as a developing adolescent. Davis’ father Sean Cripe drove this reality home when he spoke of his son’s death.

“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… Parents, please talk to your kids about the dangers of these energy drinks.”[1]

Adolescents vs Adults: The Effects of Caffeine on the Body

We all, young or old, react to caffeine and present symptoms differently. Regardless of its effect on your body, though, Davis’ death should make anyone think twice about their caffeine consumption. According to the FDA, approximately 80 percent of Americans consume some caffeine-filled product every day.[3] Caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant, has no nutritional value but temporarily boosts your energy and alertness. Generally, however, it can affect the human body in the following ways:[4]

  • Dehydrates and causes headaches

  • Gives you jitters and makes you irritable

  • Can temporarily cause confusing

  • Causes heartburn

  • Makes you pee more frequently

  • Leads to diarrhea

  • Increases your heartbeat and blood pressure

  • Causes nausea and vomiting

  • Makes your muscles ache

  • May cause painful breast lumps or miscarriage (in large regular quantities)

  • Gets into the baby’s bloodstream in pregnant women

  • Thin your bones over time (osteoporosis)

Daily Caffeine Consumption for Adolescents

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, adolescents between the ages of twelve and eighteen should try to avoid exceeding more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day (or, one cup of brewed coffee).[5]

With regard to products like the one Davis drank, vice chairwoman of the department of nutrition at the University of California Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr warns that “children and adolescents are advised to avoid energy drinks. They can contain a significant amount of caffeine as well as other stimulants.”

This urgent warning is especially relevant when about 73 percent of children consume caffeine on any given day, according to this 2014 study in Pediatrics.

Daily Caffeine Consumption for Adults

If you’re a healthy adult, Mayo Clinic suggests that you do not exceed more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. What’s this equivalent to? Four cups of brewed coffee, ten cans of cola, or two ‘energy shot’ drinks. Mind you, the individual levels of caffeine in each of these drinks will vary widely from product to product.[6] Ultimately, your age, weight, and any pre-existing medications you’re taking or health conditions you have will help determine your individual caffeine consumption requirement – or omission.

Try Some Safe and Natural Energy-Boosting Alternatives

One of the biggest challenges most people face when attempting to manage caffeine consumption is that it’s tasteless (when put into foods and drinks). So, if you aren’t being diligent about reading your food and drink labels, you could very well exceed the general caffeine limits. To be safe and healthy, give these natural energizers a try!

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/15/health/teen-death-caffeine/index.html

[2] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arr

[3] https://www.fda.gov/downloads/UCM200805.pdf

[4] http://www.healthline.com/health/caffeine-effects-on-body

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/nutrition/energy.htm

[6] http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/art-20045678

Image Source: 

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