Caffeine and Childrens' Headaches

June 25, 2003

Most people have had a headache. Some people, even children, have chronic headaches that occur almost every day. Although many headaches are caused by stress and muscle tension, some headaches can be caused by caffeine.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. For some people, caffeinated drinks cause headaches. Some people get headaches when they stop drinking caffeinated drinks (caffeine withdrawal). Caffeine-related headaches have been known to cause chronic headaches in adults, but little is known about how caffeine causes headaches in children.

A new study published in the journal Cephalalgia (June 2003) sheds some light on caffeine and children's headaches. Researchers in Tel Aviv, Israel, examined 105 children (56 boys, 49 girls) who complained of chronic headaches that occurred daily or at least four days each week. Of this group, 36 children (19 boys, 17 girls; mean age 9.2 years) were found to be consumers of large amounts of caffeinated cola drinks: at least 1.5 liters (51 oz.; about 4 cans) each day. This amount of cola contains approximately 193 mg of caffeine. (A cup of coffee contains 50-75 mg of caffeine.) Some children drank up to 21 liters (710 oz.; about 59 cans) of caffeinated soda each week for a total of approximately 2700 mg of caffeine!

The researchers convinced the kids to reduce their caffeine intake gradually over a two-week period. This caffeine reduction program had a dramatic effect: the headaches of 33 of the 36 children disappeared.

Not everyone who drinks caffeinated drinks gets a headache. The authors of this new study, however, warn that excessive consumption of cola drinks may cause chronic headaches in children.

References and further information about headaches:

  1. Hering-Hanit, R. and Gadoth, N., Caffeine-induced headache in children and adolescents, Cephalalgia, 23:332-335, 2003.
  2. Caffeine - from Neuroscience for Kids
  3. American Council for Headache Education
  4. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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