Pica is most common in people with developmental disabilities, like autism and intellectual disabilities, and in children between the ages of 2 and 3. Pica also may surface in children who’ve had a brain injury affecting their development. It can also be a problem for some pregnant women, as well as people with epilepsy.
People with pica frequently crave and eat nonfood items such as: dirt, clay, paint chips, plaster, chalk, ashes, glue, hair, button etecetera.
Pica is an eating disorder that can result in serious health problems, such as lead poisoning and iron-deficiency aneamia.
The specific causes of pica are unknown, but certain conditions and situations can increase a person’s risk; nutritional deficiencies, such as iron or zinc, that may trigger specific cravings (however, the nonfood items craved usually don’t supply the minerals lacking in the person’s body).
Warning signs that a child may have pica include: eating of nonfood items, despite efforts to restrict it, for a period of at least one month or longer, the behaviour is considered inappropriate for your child’s age or developmental stage.
A child who continues to consume nonfood items may be at risk for serious health problems, including: lead poisoning (from eating lead-based paint chips or dirt contaminated with lead), constipation or diarrhoea (from consuming indigestible substances like hair, cloth, etc.), intestinal obstruction or perforation (from eating objects that could block or injure the intestines), tooth or mouth injuries (from eating hard substances that could harm the teeth), parasitic and other infections (from eating dirt, feces, or other infected substances).
Medical emergencies and death can occur if the craved substance is toxic or contaminated with lead or mercury, or if the item forms an indigestible mass blocking the intestines. Pica involving lead-containing substances during pregnancy may be associated with an increase in both maternal and fetal lead levels.