On April 26, 16-year-old Davis Allen Cripe collapsed in a classroom at Spring Hill High School in Chapin, South Carolina. He later died at the hospital. An initial autopsy was inconclusive, but at a press conference today, Richland County coroner Gary Watts said that Cripe's official cause of death was a "caffeine-induced cardiac event." Watts said that, in the two hours before Cripe collapsed, the teen drank a large Mountain Dew, a latte from McDonalds, and an energy drink.
"We lost Davis from a totally legal substance," Watts said at the news conference. "It was so much caffeine at the time of his death, that it caused his arrhythmia." An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat, whether the heart beats too fast, too slow, or erratically (caffeine is known to speed up heart rate). Some kinds of arrhythmias are harmless but others, including ventricular fibrillation, can be life-threatening.
Watts said the autopsy showed no undiagnosed heart condition and that Cripe was otherwise healthy. Watts said what's dangerous about this case is that you don't know who would react to caffeine this way: "You can have five people line up and all of them do the exact same thing with him that day, drink more, and it may not have any type of effect on them at all," he said.
Both Watts and Cripe's father Sean warned people not to buy energy drinks but Watts also said that a soda or a cup of coffee is OK. All of these drinks are fine in moderation but the USDA recommends you cap your caffeine intake at 400 milligrams per day (8 ounces of drip coffee has between 95 and 200 milligrams). Sadly, it seems that Cripe had too much in too short a window.
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