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      The Practicing Parent: Kids & Caffeine

      Practicing Parents, please don't judge, but on occasion my 2 -1/2 year old son has caffeine. Sometimes it's the soda I'm drinking or maybe some chocolate (the child likes his sweets), but whenever I think about the amount of caffeine he has ingested, it keeps me awake at night.

      No one will deny caffeine's ability to enhance mood and alertness, but experts say it's easy for kids to get too much.

      Pediatric Registered Dietitian Tara Harwood with the Cleveland Clinic says what makes it harder for parents to keep their child's caffeine intake down is the fact that it is found in so many more foods than just soft drinks, coffee, or tea.

      "There is gum with caffeine, water, cereals, brownies, lollipops- even beef jerky. There are so many products that your kids can get hold of that contain caffeine that you need to be aware of this," Harwood said. "It can increase heart rate. It can decrease their ability to possibly concentrate over long-term."

      She says it can also affect the stomach. "It can cause abdominal pain or if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, it can exacerbate the symptoms related with that."

      Harwood says insomnia has also been linked to kids who have too much caffeine in their diet.

      She recommends talking with a dietitian or your pediatrician if you have concerns about how much caffeine is in your child's diet.