Pica In Children: Cause, Symptoms

Pica In Children: Cause, Symptoms
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Children are, of course, curious. They tend to put almost any item in their mouths until they reach a specific phase of development as they attempt to understand the world. Once this phase is over, children understand what they should put into their mouths. But sometimes, a kid may again have a strange habit of eating dirt, paper, sand, paint, etc. And this could be a sign of pica in children.

What Is Pica?

Pica is an eating disorder in which children have more than a month of developing cravings for non-food items. The word ‘ pica ‘ comes from the Latin word magpie, an indiscriminately appetizing bird.

Pica disorder may occur at any moment during childhood or adulthood, particularly in those with special needs such as autism, epilepsy, or other developmental disabilities. Studies discovered it to be more common among the lower classes of socioeconomics.

Pica children consume a range of substances like:

  • Sand
  • Paint
  • Chalk
  • Glue
  • Soap
  • Ice
  • Hair
  • Coffee grounds
  • Cigarette ashes
  • Paper
  • Metal
  • Talcum powder
  • Starch

Causes of Pica in Children

Pica can be triggered in kids for a variety of reasons including:

  • Taste acquired for the particular item
  • Mineral deficiency like zinc or iron (hookworm or celiac disease may also be the cause)
  • A disorder or obsessive-compulsive habit known as OCD
  • Brain injury
  • Brain chemicals imbalance
  • In order to seek attention
  • Maternal neglect

Symptoms Of Pica In Children

These are some indications your kid might have pica

  • Despite attempts to prevent it, eat non-food substances for more than a month.
  • Their eating patterns and cravings are not the same as their age or conduct.
  • Children under two years of age generally have pica, even if they are ingesting non-food products.
  • The eating habits of your child are not part of a tradition of ethnic or cultural food. For instance, eating clay is thought to heal gastrointestinal issues in parts of Africa and some rural regions of the US.
  • If your kid consumes large quantities of soil recurrently that can be a soil-pica syndrome or geophagia. This could be due to severe iron deficiency.

They may have several other symptoms, such as stomach pain, nausea, and bloating owing to intestinal or stomach blockage, poor nutrition, and tiredness, depending on the items the kid eats.

Pica is not a standalone disorder as some deficiencies lead to this issue, leading to some more mild or serious complications.

Diagnosis of Pica in Children

To diagnose this illness, there is no particular test. This disorder is diagnosed by the doctor based on several variables including medical history. It is essential, to be frank with the doctor about the non-food products that the kid consumes and the time this practice started. If the practice continues for more than a month, it is extremely likely to be a pica disorder indeed. Before it is fully developed, it is wiser to curb this disorder. To check for iron and zinc levels, doctors conduct a blood test. An iron content deficiency may lead to pica. Plan a routine check-up to identify malnutrition, which can lead to pica as well.

Complications Of Pica

Any such complication may result from an indiscriminate consumption of non-food

  • Lead toxicity when the kid consumes lead-contaminated paint or sand.
  • Gastrointestinal complications like constipation, ulceration, perforation, diarrhea, parasites, malabsorption of nutrients, and obstruction of the intestine.
  • Intestinal obstruction from eating something that may harm or prevent the intestines.
  • Injury to the mouth when the children swallow or eat a sharp or hard substance.
  • Dental erosion as a coarse substance harms the teeth while chewing.
  • Infections from eating dirt or feces.

With timely diagnosis and pica therapy, you can prevent these complications. And you can’t delay taking the kid to a doctor under certain conditions.

Treatment of Pica

Doctors prescribe mineral and vitamin supplements when pica results from a nutrient imbalance. In addition, some of the popular therapy techniques used in the event of pica are as follows:

  • Doctors prescribe therapy, medication or both when pica is caused by mental health problems such as OCD.
  • Because negligence may be a cause of pica, it is recommended that you work on communication skills and boost communication with the kid.
  • Create a unique box packed with edible food that can be chosen by the kid as compared to the non-food item for which the kid is reaching.
  • Avoid any adverse behavior such as rigorous penalties when the kid shows such behaviors and reinforces actions that are positive when the kid prevents pica behavior.

It can be quite simple in some cases to get rid of the pica, while many a kid may need some professional assistance and advanced techniques to relieve pica. Patience is a very significant virtue throughout this process to retain. You should be continually positive and promote your child to be efficient for any therapy.

Also Read: What Cause Constipation In Toddlers?