Reuters and the Lancet are reporting on the case of a thirteen year old boy recently hospitalized with caffeine intoxication. The boy consumed two packs of caffeinated gum within a four hour period, ingesting about 320 mg of the stimulant. The boy’s parents first noticed that he was acting irritable and aggressive, but symptoms soon worsened. He complained of abdominal cramps, increased and painful urination, and tingling sensations in the legs. When doctors treated the boy, they found that his heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure were all abnormal. In fact, it took a total of five days before the boy returned to normal. During that time, the boy was medically monitored from time to time, and showed side effects following the use of the gum. He was sleepy and sluggish for days afterward, and experienced both sinus bradycardia and low left-ventricular ejection fraction, or decreased heart rate. It’s unclear what kind of gum the boy used, but there are a variety of brands of gum offered including Jolt, Kickbrix, Penguin, and Blitz. Those gums compete with energy drinks and shots that are available for purchase without age limits.
While the use of caffeine by teenagers is nothing new, it is important to remember that experts recommend that teens not consume caffeinated products after noon, limit their caffeine intake, and sleep at least nine hours a night. However, studies have shown that on average, many teens consume about 215 mg of caffeine a day, about the same amount as three espressos. Teens often stay up late multi-tasking, texting, and using the internet. These kind of practices can make energy gums and drinks tempting to adolescents, and make it all the more important that they be warned of the dangers of those products.