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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Caffeine cravings: Too much of a good thing?

Like your parents used to say, everything in moderation

By Arthur Hsieh

An emergency room nurse I used to know used to say, "Caffeine is the elixer of life." She said this one early morning when a few of us were preparing to teach a class, and were standing round the coffee urn, gulping down our second — or third — cup of strong,black coffee.

Over the years, that paper cup of coffee has transformed into larger cups, to flavored coffee, to espresso, lattes and other concoctions. Caffeinated soft drinks moved from colas to energy drinks.

All along the way, the amount of caffeine found in these drinks have risen significantly, from about 35 mg in 12 ounces of Coke and 100 mg in 8 ounces of plain black coffee, to more than 200 mg in a 2 ounce shot of 5 Hour Energy.

With the current recommendation of ingesting no more than 500 mg per day, it's pretty easy to spot the trend and how it can affect our patients.

As a healthcare provider, recognize that the amount of caffeine you  ingest will affect you as well as any stimulant out there. As with any drug, your body does become habituated to its effects, causing headaches and a "crashing" feeling if you don't maintain a certain level. On the other hand, you can reduce your total overall intake gradually and your body will adjust nicely.

If you're like me, caffeine is one of the food "staples" of the profession. This is just a gentle reminder that everything should be had in moderation. 

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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