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Craving or eating bizarre substances, that have no nutritional value, like mud, clay, pencils, chalk, paint from the wall etc.

Sex or Age most Affected

Children between ages 1 and 6. Pica does not apply to infants and children up to about 18 months old as they normally “put everything” in the mouth.

Signs & Symptons

  • Eating non-food substances, such as clay, pencil, plaster, paint or gravel.
  • Abdominal pain (sometimes).
  • Symptoms of resultant anemia, worms or giardiasis.


  • Instinctive needs to replace minerals deficient in the diet for e.g. eating clay/mud in Iron deficiency
  • Psychological factors that are not well understood related to emotional deprivation.

Risk Increases With

  • Family history of pica.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Anemia.


  • Remove substances from the reach of children.
  • Provide a well-balanced diet for yourself and your children.
  • Provide a loving, supportive home environment for your children.
  • If painting your house, ask for lead-free paint. Ditto for painting older baby cribs.

Diagnostic Measures

  • Observation of symptoms.
  • History and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory studies to detect anemia, worms.

Possible Complications

  • Lead poisoning from paints or plaster.
  • Intestinal infections or parasites from soil.
  • Anemia.
  • Malnutrition.

NOTE–Follow your doctor’s instructions. The instructions given below are supplemental.


General Measures

  • Keep the substances, your child is eating, out of his reach.
  • Evaluate 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.OTE–Follow your doctor’s instructions. The instructions given below are supplemental.


Let your doctor diagnose the cause and suggest medicines.


Provide a well-balanced diet. Vitamin and mineral supplements may be necessary. If you need help planning meals, click here or if still not satisfied, ask Ms. Minal.

Contact your Doctor

  • Your child continues to have symptoms of pica.
  • Pica does not improve in 2 weeks, despite treatment.