DESCRIPTIONPica is eating bizarre substances that have no food value. The brain and gastrointestinal tract are involved. Pica can affect children between ages 1 and 6, and pregnant females. Pica does not apply to infants and children up to 18 months old who "put everything" in the mouth. That is normal.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Psychotherapy or counseling.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSEating non-food substances, such as starch, clay, ice, plaster, paint, hair, or gravel.
Abdominal pain (sometimes).
CAUSESInstinctive need to replace minerals absent in the diet. This is especially true of eating clay for iron content.
Psychological factors that are not well-understood, related to substandard housing, low income, or emotional deprivation.
RISK FACTORSFamily history of pica.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Remove substances from the reach of your child.
Repaint homes in which lead-base paints have been used. Don't use older baby cribs painted with lead-base paint.
Provide a well-balanced diet for yourself and your child.
Provide a loving, supportive home environment for your child.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory blood studies to detect anemia and measure fluids and electrolytes.
X-rays of the abdomen.
Lead poisoning from paint or plaster.
Intestinal infections or parasites from soil.
Pica during pregnancy usually ends with childbirth. Other forms can be controlled with treatment.
Childproof your home by removing substances the child is eating.
Examine your home environment and family interactions. If you feel they are not what they should be, seek ways to create a healthier atmosphere. Consult a counselor, if necessary.
MEDICATIONMedicine usually is not necessary for this disorder.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
DIET & FLUIDS
Provide a well-balanced diet for your child. Vitamin and mineral supplements may be necessary. If you need help planning meals, consult the home-extension service, a dietitian, or a visiting nurse.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of pica.
You are pregnant and have symptoms of pica.
Pica does not improve in 2 weeks, despite treatment.