It can be concerning for parents when they notice their child eating non-food items such as crayons or dirt. This behavior is quite common, but when it goes beyond a little bit of curiosity, it migh be a condition known as "pica" (PIE-kuh).
What is Pica?
Pica is a disorder where individuals have an appetite for non-nutritive substances such as dirt, clay, chalk, or paper. This disorder can occur in children, pregnant women, and individuals with developmental disabilities.
Why do Children Eat Non-Food Items?
Children may eat non-food items due to curiosity or exploration, sensory issues, or nutrient deficiencies. In some cases, pica can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as iron-deficiency anemia.
What are the Risks of Pica?
Eating non-food items can be harmful and even life-threatening. Dirt and sand can contain harmful bacteria and parasites, while crayons and other art supplies may contain toxic chemicals. Consuming these items can lead to choking, poisoning, or intestinal blockages.
How to Prevent Pica?
Preventing pica involves addressing the underlying cause of the behavior. Here are some tips:
- Supervise your child and keep non-food items out of reach
- Provide your child with safe and appropriate sensory toys
- Ensure your child is getting a well-balanced diet and speak with a doctor if you suspect a nutrient deficiency
- Seek medical attention if you suspect an underlying medical condition
What to Do if You Suspect Pica?
If you suspect your child has pica, speak with their pediatrician. They will be able to determine if there is an underlying medical condition and provide guidance on how to manage the behavior.
While pica can be concerning for parents, it is a common behavior in young children. Understanding the underlying causes and taking preventative measures can help keep your child safe and healthy.
And many children experiment with putting foreign objects in their mouth as a way to explore the world. As long as we keep them safe, it should not be a big problem!