Pica is an eating disorder relating to the consumption of non-nutritive substances. It’s common for children to put all sorts of things, from clay and dirt, to crayons, in their mouths. Usually, all it takes is a basic amount of parental supervision and instruction to keep the growing child from consuming unsuitable substances.
However, sometimes children develop an abnormal appetite for things such as dirt, paper, sand, rust, hair, baking soda, glue, wood-chips, and even cigarette butts. This pattern of compulsively eating non-food substances is known as pica. 25 to 30 percent of infants are diagnosed with pica disorders.
If you observe your child growing at a normal developmental pace, chances are that pica is just another habit for your child rather than a full blown disorder, but you should still be on the lookout for what your child is eating.
Whereas pica has no specific causes to which it can be attributed, it may be linked to any of the following:
Lead poisoning and iron-deficiency anemia in children can result from pica disorders.
A doctor can play an important role in handling pica.