Pica in Children
When children start eating mud or chalk for more than a month, they are said to have Pica.
When pregnant women eat vibuthi (a type of ash, considered sacred), pickles or sour mangoes it is considered natural. However, when children start eating mud or chalk, it is a cause of worry. If this habit is continued for more than a month, children are said to have PICA.
Deficiency of Zinc has been postulated to be the cause for Pica. Children, who consume paints that contain lead, are likely to develop neurological disorders. Those who consume mud also introduce the worms in the mud into their intestine leading to digestive problems.
Hair or stones may sometimes be retained in the intestines leading to loss of appetite and severe abdominal pain.
Another reason put forward is the lack of proper emotional bonding between the mother and the child.
Since it is slightly older children who develop pica, parents often are unaware that their children have acquired it. So any child with loss of appetite, frequent fatigue and tiredness should be investigated for Pica.
Zinc and Iron tablets are usually prescribed for patients with Pica. Vegetables like Tomatoes, Carrots and Greens, that contain significant quantities of these minerals are also prescribed. Since, pica is often caused by worms, deworming is beneficial.