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Last Updated: Tuesday December 09 2008 05:47 GMT

What is caffeine?

Coffee beans

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a chemical found naturally in lots of products, like coffee beans and tea leaves. It's also added to some food, and drinks like chocolate. It's even used in some medication. Lots of energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine.

What are the effects of caffeine?

Caffeine is a stimulant. That means it makes people more active and makes them feel like they have lots of energy.

Why is it dangerous to have too much caffeine?

Too much caffeine interferes with the brain and the heart.

It can increase acid in the body and affect the way blood vessels work. This can make the heart beat too fast and can cause serious illness.

Why is it dangerous for children to drink a lot of caffeine?

Children's bodies are not fully developed so they're not always able to deal with what caffeine does there bodies.

It can cause problems in everyday life - it might be harder to keep up-to-date with school work because you aren't able to concentrate.

If a child eats or drinks a lot of caffeine over a long period of time, in very serious cases, it can cause problems with their heart.

What are some of the symptoms of too much caffeine?

If you have too much caffeine, you might feel moody and anxious, you might find it hard to sleep and some people feel shaky.

What happens when the effects of caffeine are wearing off the body?

Caffeine is a drug and it is very addictive. That means the body gets used to it and when it wears off, it craves more.

While it's wearing off, people may also get headaches, lose their memory, feel tired and sick. These feelings can last up to four days.

How many energy drinks are safe to drink?

A warning on an energy drink can
There are no official guidelines on how many energy drinks children can handle, but most companies that make them advise that under 16s shouldn't drink them at all.

Doctors reckon even adults should only have a few drinks with caffeine in them each day.

There are warnings on the cans or bottles.

What should you do if you are worried you are addicted?

You should definitely tell someone - you could tell a parent, a teacher or another adult you trust. As well as this, you could:

  • Cut back slowly, this way your body will gradually get used to not having caffeine.
  • Drink lots of water to stop headaches and to clean your system out.
  • Try eating dried fruits or sugar-free gum instead of chocolate.
  • Write a list of the good things that will happen when you stop having caffeine. For example, you'll save money and you'll feel healthier.
  • Write a list of possible illnesses caused by too much caffeine and keep it somewhere obvious, like your bedroom door.
  • Tell an adult you trust - a parent or a teacher.