How to Tell That Your Child Has Pica

kid eating crayons

Kids have a wild imagination. They will use everything and anything and make it a game. A lot of kids will use mud to make mud pies or pieces of chalk to pretend that they are cooking. But what if your kid is not just playing with non-food items and is actually eating them?

Pica eating disorder affects 10 to 30% of kids below 6 years old. Pica eating is craving and eating non-food items that have no nutritional values. Most kids will try something weird out of curiosity which is perfectly normal. But there are some signs that can show you that your kid is having a real problem that might affect their health.

Pica Eating in Children:

Most of the times, kids will eat non-food items that they have easy access to. The most common one is dirt. Eating dirt which is known as geophagy is probably the most widely spread subcategory of Pica eating. But kids might eat other substances including glue, toothpaste, clay, chalk, hair, cigarette ashes, paint and even animal feces.

What Causes Pica in Children?

The real cause of the development of Pica and adults is still unknown. But a lot of doctors believe that this disorder could be directly related to certain nutrient deficiencies. If your kid is currently suffering from iron or zinc deficiency they might start eating non-food items.

A lot of kids who suffer from other problems will also develop a Pica eating disorder. Children who are suffering from a development or intellectual disability are most likely going to suffer from Pica at a point in their lives. Children who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD might also find it really hard to stop consuming non-food items.

How can You Tell that your Child has Pica?

These signs will help you determine if your child has a real problem or is just being curious:

  • He or she would still look for non-food items even when you restrict access to them.
  • This behavior is not appropriate for their developmental stage.
  • They understand that these items are dangerous but would still eat them anyway.
  • This behavior is persistent for more than one month.

What are the Complications of Pica?

Pica’s complications are directly related to the substances and materials that the patients ingest. Most of the time, kids who suffer from Pica will suffer from malnutrition. This is due to the fact they are consuming substances that have no nutritional value, affecting their natural appetite for normal food items.

Some kids might suffer from constipation or internal obstruction because these non-food items can’t be absorbed or processed by the body. If kids consume sharp objects, they might be at risk for internal bleeding or intestinal damage

Kids who eat dirt are at risk for infection from the bacteria, fungi, and parasites that normally live in dirt. These can cause a lot of problems in the digestive system. Other materials like paint or chalk might contain toxic ingredients. These might put your child at risk of poisoning or brain damage. You should consult a doctor as soon as you notice any of the warning signs.

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