Too much caffeine caused the death of a 16-year-old high school student from South Carolina who collapsed during class last month, according to the county coroner.
Davis Allen Cripe died from a caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts announced in a news conference Monday. During an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body, and lack of blood flow affects the brain, heart and other organs.
The teen consumed three caffeine-laced drinks -- a cafe latte, large Diet Mountain Dew and an energy drink -- in a two-hour period before collapsing in his classroom at Spring Hill High School on April 26, Watts said.
Among those at the news conference Monday was the teen's father, Sean Cripe.
"Like all parents, we worry about our kids as they grow up. We worry about their safety, their health, especially once they start driving. But it wasn't a car crash that took his life. Instead, it was an energy drink," Sean Cripe said of his son's death.
Watts said Davis had purchased the latte at McDonald's around 12:30 p.m. After that he consumed the Diet Mountain Dew and the energy drink.
Davis collapsed at the school in Chapin, near Columbia, just before 2:30 p.m. and according to Watts, was pronounced dead at 3:40 p.m.
Davis' autopsy showed no undiagnosed heart conditions and that Davis was healthy and had no conditions that could have triggered by the caffeine intake. Also, no other drugs or alcohol were found in the teen's system, according to Watts.
"This was not an overdose. We lost Davis from a totally legal substance, " Watts said. "Our purpose here today is to let people know, especially our young kids in school, that these drinks can be dangerous, and be very careful with how you use them, and how many you drink on a daily basis."
Sean Cripe said he hopes that if nothing else comes out of this, parents and kids will realize the dangers of caffeinated beverages.
"Parents, please talk to your kids about the dangers of these energy drinks," he said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents, age 12 to 18, should not consume more than 100 milligrams of caffeine per day. An intake of caffeine greater than that has been associated with elevated blood pressure in adolescents, Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, nutrition specialist and vice chairwoman in the department of nutrition at the University of California, Davis previously told CNN.
When it comes to energy drinks specifically, "children and adolescents are advised to avoid energy drinks. They can contain a significant amount of caffeine as well as other stimulants," she said.
A 2014 study found an estimated 73% of children consume some kind of caffeine each day. While there is no designated standard for children, according to the US Food and Drug Administration adults can consume 400 milligrams of caffeine per day -- equivalent to four or five cups of coffee -- without experiencing side effects.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can improve alertness and mood. It can also be habit forming. Too much caffeine can cause mild symptoms such as shaky hands and an upset stomach. Severe symptoms can include high blood pressure, seizures and coma, according to the National Capital Poison Center.