Energy drinks are all the rage these days, but have you ever considered what their effects might be on teenagers and children whose bodies are still developing?
A story of a teenage girl in Scotland who experienced near total paralysis has parents worried about what these popular beverages could be doing to their kids.
Many people know that energy drinks often contain high amounts of caffeine and sugar, or other sweeteners, that raise your heart rate and blood pressure, which has just recently been confirmed an American Heart Association study.
But for Caitlin Fraser, a fit and active Scottish teenager who was also a competition dancer, the symptoms were just worrying, they were life-threatening.
A few years ago, when Fraser was 13, she began leaving her school, Coatbridge High School in North Lanarkshire, at lunchtime to a nearby ice cream van to buy Emerge, a popular energy drink which includes lots of sugar, taurine (the main ingredient in Red Bull), and caffeine.
While Fraser lived a healthy lifestyle, doing lots of exercise for her dance practice, the drinks were clearly too much for her system to deal with. The warning signs came quickly and left Fraser afraid for her life.
It began when Fraser was at school, as she told The Daily Mirror, “the right side of my face dropped and I was wondering what was going on, then two minutes later my full right side had dropped and I had no sensation.” Completely terrified at the sudden paralysis, Fraser got the attention of qualified first responders at school and was sent to University Hospital Monklands.
From there, Fraser was given a full battery of tests (including EKG) and transferred to Whishaw General Hospital. The then 13 year old, who’d never suspected anything was wrong with her health, was scared and confused.
“I had no idea what was happening and was very worried, I didn’t really know what to think,” she said to the Mirror.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) March 15, 2017
The diagnosis was shocking. She was told by the doctors that she was suffering from a rare condition called Hemiplagic migraine, in which one side of the body sporadically becomes numb and eventually temporarily paralyzed. According to the Migraine Trust, “the person may experience speech difficulties, vision problems or confusion. This can be a frightening experience for the individual as these symptoms are similar to those of a stroke.”
While the cause couldn’t be determined for certain, Fraser told the Mirror: “on my results it came back that it could have been too much caffeine.” Doctors were very concerned about Fraser’s condition and told her what she needed to do in no uncertain terms.
“The doctors and consultant said if I drink this again I could end up having a cardiac arrest,” she said to the Mirror.
Fraser and her mom have since been trying to get other kids and parents’ attention about the dangers these seemingly harmless drinks pose. Fraser shared this message with the readers of the Mirror: “Please please try and cut down on these energy drinks as it is a very, very scary experience, but I’m so glad I had my friends and family to help me through.”
Her mother, Laura Fraser, believes that the government and schools need to do a lot more to protect kids from these addictive beverages. “I know that hundreds of the kids at Caitlin’s school buy these drinks regularly, they are freely available and cheap and marketed to be colourful and energy packed,” her mother said to the Mirror.
Her idea? Put an age limit on the drinks, just the way that other dangerous substances like tobacco and alcohol already have, in order to keep kids safe.
“I wanted to warn other parents to urge their children to be careful. This could have been so much worse.”