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Is it Abnormal or Harmful For your Child to Eat Inedible Substances?

Author GreatDad Writers
Submitted 08-10-2007

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:

  • Developmental deficiencies

  • Malnutrition

  • Parental neglect

  • Mental health disorders like autism

  • Cultural habits

Lead poisoning and iron-deficiency anemia in children can result from pica disorders.



  • Keep infants under supervision when they are playing at beaches or in their favorite sandbox.

  • Teach your children the difference between acceptable and non-acceptable foods.

  • Keep household chemicals, drugs, and medications out of their reach.

  • Give your children an organic based nutrition diet.

  • Look out for signs of nervousness or boredom in your child.

  • Check for nutritional deficits in your child’s body with your pediatrician.

A doctor can play an important role in handling pica.

  • A pediatrician can diagnose zinc deficiency and other symptoms in your child.

  • A doctor can administer behavioral therapy in case of pica disorders to help wean the child off harmful substances.