Pica is mostly common in people with developmental disabilities, like autism and intellectual disabilities, and children between the age of 2 and 3. Pica may surface in children who’ve had a brain injury affecting their development according to kidshealth.org.
Common causes of Pica
- acquired taste for the item
- mineral deficiency, such as iron or zinc (Celiac disease or hookworm can sometimes cause this as well.)
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- chemical imbalance in the brain
- brain injury
- attention-seeking behavior
- maternal deprivation, poverty, or neglect
It very important that pica is treated, before it cause more serious physical and emotional problems. Pica can lead to complications, depending on what was swallowed, such as intoxication, resulting in physical or mental impairment, lead poisoning, surgical emergencies, dental injury, nutritional deficiencies, parasitosis, intestinal obstruction, perforation, and bowel problems. it is important to do all you can to prevent pica from being established.
Pica Prevention Tips
- Teach your children what is and is not safe to eat.
- Explain the differences between food and non-food substances, as well as the consequences of eating non-food items.
- Store any craved non-food items in a locked cabinet, or out of your child’s reach.
- Offer your child plenty of well-balanced, nutritious meals and snacks.
If you have done the necessary procedures to prevent pica for your child and problem still persist, then it is time to seek a professional’s help. Your child will be seen by a pediatrician, he / she will do several things to diagnose your child, including testing blood and lead levels, checking hemoglobin for anemia, checking for infection, taking x-rays to identify what was eaten (if needed), and collecting urine and stool samples.
Treatments for Pica
- Increase communication skills with your child, so that she can better relate what she wants or needs.
- Develop a “pica” box full of edible items that your child can choose from, instead of his “go-to” substance.
- Practice positive reinforcement when your child avoids pica and negative chore-based punishments when pica is present.
- Briefly restrain your child after pica is attempted, or use self-protection devices, time outs, or overcorrection.
Some children, alleviating pica behaviors can be a relatively easy process, while for others it may take a professional working with your child through more advanced techniques. It is important to remember to have patience with the process and be positive. Make sure you always encourage your child, no matter which treatment route is taken.