We like to joke, post, and wear t-shirts about being a “coffee addict,” or having “caffeine withdrawals,” but according to expert medical sources, it’s a real and very dangerous thing.
Most people know that caffeine is a stimulant that causes various effects on consumers, notoriously causing feelings of alertness by making brain-body messages travel faster. But many people don’t know that this can reach a dangerous – even deadly – level.
Caffeine overdose is rare, but the actual problem most often related to energy drinks or supplements that contain very high levels of caffeine. Overdoses most often occur in children and adolescents who are more susceptible to the effects of the stimulant. Since the conception of online databases, 92 lethal caffeine overdoses have been recorded.
What is considered an overdose?
Caffeine tends to start affecting the body once that the blood system contains more than 15 milligrams of caffeine per liter of blood. A concentration of 80-100 milligrams per liter can be fatal. Keep in mind that consuming too much caffeine happens easier when using caffeine supplements, especially if combined with coffee, tea, sodas, or energy drinks. Medical experts agree that caffeine powder is the most dangerous – just a teaspoon of powdered caffeine can be equivalent to 28 cups of coffee!
How to recognize an overdose
Typical symptoms of caffeine overdose can include very fast or irregular heartbeat, shakiness, nausea or vomiting, chest pain, rapid breathing, confusion, panic attacks, and more. Seek medical advice immediately if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms. The most common cause of death from caffeine overdose is from ventricular fibrillation- when the lower chambers of the heart vibrate rather than contracting regularly. This leads to cardiac arrest.
How to avoid consuming too much caffeine
Be aware of your caffeine intake by understanding where your caffeine is coming from. Coffee, tea, cola, and energy drinks are the obvious caffeine culprits. But caffeine is also found in many workout supplements, cold and flu medications, chocolate, and other candies. Avoid mixing alcohol and caffeine, or consuming excessive caffeine when pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s advised that children and adolescents shouldn’t drink caffeine, as the full effects of caffeine on developing bodies aren’t fully known yet.
So what is safe?
Medical experts suggest that adults can usually safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day as part of their diet (up to five 8-ounce cups of coffee). In addition to talking with your doctor, the key to staying healthy while enjoying caffeine is to understand exactly what you are consuming and paying attention to how it’s affecting you. Don’t forget to spread the word about the dangerous effects of too much caffeine and the surprising products where it’s found.