Is It Safe For Kids To Drink Tea?

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Tea is believed to have several health benefits. However, is it safe for you to consider tea for kids? The tea we usually make contains caffeine and refined sugar, which are not recommended in excess amounts, especially for children. Plunge into this post as we tell you whether or not tea is safe for children, the correct age for introducing the beverage to them, its benefits, and possible adverse effects.

Is It Safe For Children To Drink Tea? 

Ideally, tea is not recommended for children due to its natural caffeine content. According to Dr. Cidny Gellner of the University of Utah Health Sciences, “Drinking high amounts of sweetened caffeinated drinks can lead to cavities in children.”

Also, caffeine is diuretic that can make your kids pee more frequently. (1)

You may replace caffeinated tea with herbal tea. However, make sure that the ingredients in the tea are suitable for your child. For instance, some herbs that suit one child may not suit some other.

What Is The Right Age For Children To Start Drinking Tea?

There are no studies that specify the age when children may start drinking tea. As long as tea consumption is moderate, and the caffeine limit is under control, there may not be significant risks.

However, it is good to know caffeine limit for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics observes, ”Kids and teens should be careful when consuming caffeinated drinks. Adolescents between 12 and 18 age may take 100mg caffeine (around one or two cups of tea) in a day. But for children below 12 years of age, they have no said safe threshold (2).”

Children may drink one or two cups of tea after 12 years

Image: iStock

 

Before serving a cup of tea to your child, do consider the possible health benefits and side effects of tea for children.

Are There Any Benefits Of Tea For Children? 

An occasional cup of regular caffeinated tea may provide some short term advantages to kids.

  • It can be relaxing
  • It may soothe body aches and tummy ache
  • It may help treat cough and cold

You may have to make tea the right way for the child to enjoy the above benefits.

Quick fact
Herbal teas such as peppermint or chamomile tea can break up mucus and stimulate immunity to help soothe the throat in children (10).

Tips To Make A Cup Of Tea For Kids 

Make a cup of light tea for kids

Image: iStock

If you are planning to give your child an occasional cup of regular tea, here’s the way to do it.

  • Use fewer tea leaves to make a light tea.
  • You can also make a light tea by steeping the tea for two to four minutes. If the tea gets strong, add some water to it.
  • Serve lukewarm or chilled tea and not piping hot tea.
Did you know?
A study highlights that adding skimmed or whole milk to the tea reduces the tea’s antioxidant capacity. However, whole milk reduces antioxidants less than skimmed milk (16).

Possible Side Effects Of Tea For Children 

Excessive consumption of tea may result in the following side effects for children. 

  • Caffeine in tea may affect your child’s development, behavior, and sleep (3).
  • A research study concluded that regular consumption of tea or coffee by children increased the risk of type 1 diabetes in them (4).
  • The intake of caffeine by children could increase the preference for beverages and sweet foods. Such eating patterns could increase the risk of obesity (5).
  • Caffeine in excess could be responsible for fidgetiness, jitteriness, and nervousness in children (6).
  • Caffeine and sugar in tea may be associated with overweight issues in children (6).

    Caffeine and sugar in tea may cause kids to be overweight

    Image: iStock

  • Drinking sugar-sweetened tea in high amounts could be responsible for extra calories, which might result in heart diseases, tooth decay, and even type-2 diabetes.
  • Caffeine in tea inhibits the absorption of iron and calcium affecting their hemoglobin and bone strength
  • Excessive consumption of tea might lead to acidity issues also

Various Teas For Children 

The following could be some other tea options you may try as home remedies for some common illnesses.

  1. Chamomile tea: A study noted that chamomile is used to treat fever, croup, and colic in children (7). According to the University of New Mexico Health Sciences, chamomile tea may help in reducing anxiety. It is even known for its calming effect on the stomach (8). But if your child is allergic to marigolds, ragweed, daisies, and chrysanthemums, then avoid this tea (9).
  2. Ginger tea: A cup of ginger tea could be a good idea to soothe a child’s tummy. It might even help in reducing nausea (10).

    Ginger tea can soothe a child’s tummy

    Image: Shutterstock

  3. Fennel tea: It helps in reducing the symptoms of colic. It might also help in getting rid of gas by relaxing the gastrointestinal tract (11).

You could consider the above alternatives or even consider not giving tea to the child at all. 

Healthy Alternatives To Tea For Children 

Homemade fruit juices will help kids stay hydrated

Image: Shutterstock

Instead of getting addicted to tea, children may consider healthy drinks such as freshly-prepared, homemade fruit juices, milk, coconut water or lemon water or flavored water (made with natural ingredients and no added sugar). These would help them stay hydrated and provide vital nutrients to the body.

Quick tip
Make iced tea with lemon, cucumber, and mint to enjoy a healthy alternative to sweetened beverages and sodas (16).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is tea good for hyperactive children?

Tea with caffeine may make children more alert and energetic (12). Therefore, herbal teas, such as chamomile, lemongrass, and spearmint, work better for hyperactive children. Herbal teas are safer alternatives for relaxing and calming a child (13).

2. Can I give tea to my kid before bed?

No. Anything that has caffeine is not good for children before bed. Ideally, you should avoid giving them caffeine-containing food six hours before bedtime (14).

3. Which is good for children: tea or coffee?

You should avoid giving excess caffeine to children because it may cause headaches, stomach upsets, or sleep trouble (12). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests young children avoid caffeine (15).

Experts do not recommend tea for kids since sweetened and caffeinated drinks often cause dental cavities. Children should consume alternatives to caffeinated drinks, such as milk with chocolate powder or other pediatric supplements. Experts also recommend keeping caffeine intake minimum for adolescents and adults. Caffeine in tea can cause developmental issues and sleep problems if consumed excessively. So consult your child’s doctor before giving them caffeinated drinks.

Infographic: Side Effects And Healthy Alternatives Of Tea For Children

Tea is a refreshing and go-to beverage for many. But the caffeine in tea may not be suitable for children’s health, and large quantities of it may even have detrimental effects. Here is a brief overview of the notable side effects of tea and a few tea alternatives for children.

things you should know about tea for children [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Limit Kids’ Caffeine Intake To Preserve Their Health, Your Sanity; University of Utah (2014)
2. K. Joy; Parents, Perk Up to the Dangers of Caffeine for Teens; University of Michigan Health; (2017)
3. Healthy Drinks for Children; Healthy Family BC (2014)
4. S. M. Virtanen et al., Is children’s or parents’ coffee or tea consumption associated with the risk for type 1 diabetes mellitus in children? Childhood Diabetes in Finland Study Group; European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1994)
5. D. Liu et al., Dietary Patterns and Association with Obesityof Children Aged 6-17 Years in Medium and Small Cities in China: Findings from the CNHS 2010-2012; Nutrients (2019)
6. J. L. Temple, Caffeine Use in Children: What we know, what we have left to learn, and why we should worry; Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews (2009)
7. J. K. Srivastava et al., Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future Molecular Medicine Reports (2011)
8. J. E. Pentz, Healing Through Wholeness; The University of New Mexico Health Sciences (2019)
9. Chamomile; National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
10. Home Remedies to Soothe Your Child’s Cold; Children’s Hospital of The King Daughters
11. Infantile colic; leehealth.org
12. Caffeine; KidsHealth
13. Paediatr Child Health; The use of alternative therapies in treating children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; (2002)
14. Food Before Bed: What to Offer Kids and When to Hold Back; Indiana University Health
15. Is Coffee Bad for Kids?; Johns Hopkins Medicine
16. Tea; Harvard T.H. Chan

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