Is there such a thing as too much coffee? Experts weigh in

It’s a common morning ritual to wake up and immediately drink a cup of coffee. Whether it’s as a source of energy or a way to socialize, people often see coffee as an integral part of their daily routine. But at what point does its consumption do more harm than good?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the average healthy adult should be able to drink 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is about four or five eight-ounce cups of coffee. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises children and teens not to consume any caffeine, including coffee.

However, there are many factors that can affect how caffeine affects the body, such as medications or sensitivity to caffeine. Some people switch to decaf after a while, but it should be noted that even decaf coffee still contains caffeine — anywhere from two to 15 milligrams of caffeine in an 8-ounce cup, according to the FDA.

To know if you’ve gone too far with your coffee intake, there are a number of physical symptoms to look out for. These include insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, a rapid heartbeat, upset stomach, nausea, and headaches. While not everyone experiences these symptoms after drinking too much coffee, it’s important to listen to your body and put the cup down if you start to feel the adverse effects of caffeine.

“If within that milligram or cup of coffee recommendation you start to feel overly tired and the caffeine isn’t helping, then you should stop,” Jessica Sylvester, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a dietitian at the Florida Nutrition Group, said in an interview with NBC News. “If your heart starts beating incredibly fast, you need to stop. It’s different for everyone.”

An individual’s response to caffeine can also change as they age. While you might be able to drink three servings of cold brew at 25, that might not be the case by 45. Consuming more than 1,200 milligrams of caffeine can lead to more serious side effects such as seizures or even death. For the average person, however, that would mean drinking more than 20 cups of coffee in a short period of time.

Although rare, it is possible to overdose on caffeine. Some of the warning signs of a caffeine overdose may include difficulty breathing, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, dizziness, fever, irregular heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, muscle twitching and a rapid heartbeat, according to Mount Sinai.

If you think you or someone you know is experiencing a caffeine overdose, you can call the Poison Help hotline in the U.S. at 800-222-1222 for assistance. If you are calling on behalf of someone else, it may be helpful to know their age and weight, as well as the amount of caffeine they consumed and the time of day they consumed it.

People who present to the emergency room with caffeine overdose may be treated with respiratory support, such as a ventilator or oxygen; intravenous (IV) fluids; medications to treat symptoms; or even cardiac shock to treat heart rhythm problems.

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