Pica In Children : Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

eating disorder

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Have you ever caught your child eating sand, dirt, chalk or clay?

Are you worried about his eating habits and wonder if he has formed bad habits?

If the answer is yes, you are not alone. Eating sand, clay and other such items is a common occurrence in children. It is a disorder known as “pica” where your kid consumes such non-nutritional items.

What Is Pica In Children?

Pica is a disorder where your child frequently consumes non-food items.

  • This generally happens for more than a month and can harm the development of your child.
  • Eating non-food items like sand, ice and dirt can lead to digestive issues and developmental delays.

Why Does It Occur?

Pica may be a comfort mechanism against any abuse and neglect that your child may be facing. He may consume these items if he is mentally and/or physically disturbed.

Pica can also be a warning sign for autism, in case your child does not cease consumption of these items even after cautioning and counseling.

[ Read: Eating Disorders In Children ]

Side Effects Of Pica In Children:

Accumulation of non-food items in your child’s body can lead to a variety of issues like:

  • Deterioration of dental health. Chipped and cracked teeth and even jaw bones are prevalent in cases of pica.
  • Parasitic infections which can cause digestive issues and lead to dangerous weight loss in your child.
  • Children with pica, he will be nutritionally deficient. Eating dirt and sand laced with animal feces can be lethal.
  • Leads to imbalance in a child’s body and even intoxication due to consumption of lead and iron.

[ Read: How To Stop Bad Habits In Children ]

Warning Bells:

It is better to catch the disease before it becomes full blown. You can opt for a routine check-up for:

1. Lead and iron levels. Deficiency in either could be a precursor for the disorder.

2. Schedule a routine checkup for weight to effectively diagnose any malnutrition.

3. Observe the pattern of eating paper, wood, ice, glass, rocks and dirt. If this practice lasts for more than a month, then there is a need for immediate action.

Treatments Of Pica Disorder In Kids:

If your child is diagnosed with pica, take a deep breath and don’t lose hope. There are a variety of options available for pica treatment in children.

1. Treatment Of Any Deficiencies:

The first step is the diagnosis and treatment of any deficiencies (iron and lead) and malnutrition.

2. Diagnosis And Treatment Of Physiologically Induced Pica:

It is always preferable to treat the cause and avoid medicines.

  • Doctors identify any underlying factors such as neglect or disturbed family life and try to correct such destructive behavior through emotional therapies.
  • Communication is enhanced for both sides – parent and kids

3. Positive Reinforcement For Eating Good Food:

This is also encouraged. Detailed communication along with negative reinforcement for inedible things is also practiced.

[ Read: Healthy Eating Habits For Children ]

4. If All Else Fails:

Physical means for restraint are used, in such cases. This ensures complete supervision to avoid consumption of non-food items.

Tips To Curb The Pica Disorder In Children:

  • The main tool in handling pica children is patience.
  • Your patience and the right prognosis will help cure this Pica eating disorder in children without reverting to medicines and surgery.
  • Effective therapies will last lifelong and ensure that your child is not affected by pica again.
  • Always be on the lookout for any inedible consumption.
  • Try and explain the pros and cons of such consumption to your child no matter what the age.
  • It is important to realize that children learn through sensory applications. If your child has eaten inedible items it may not always be pica.

Always remember to shower your children with love and be there for them always. That way it will be easier for them to cross any hurdle in life, both physical and psychological.

We hope this piece on Pica In Kids helps you understand about Pica eating disorder and deal with it effectively in your kids. Don’t forget to share your experiences and views with us in the comment section below.

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