A Nigerian medical doctor, Olumide Olusola, has called on parents to be on the watch for signs of an eating disorder called ‘Pica’ in children.
Speaking during an interview with newsmen in Ilorin today, August, 31, he explained that pica was a condition that caused sufferers to crave for what naturally should not be eaten by humans. He also added that a person suffering from pica may desire to eat substances like tissue paper, ice, sand, chalk, pencil lead, soap, among other things.
He further described pica as:
“An eating disorder which is abnormal to humans. It is the desire to eat what will naturally not be desired or seen as food.
“Studies have revealed that pica occurs when an important vitamin is insufficient in the body, especially iron, and it is likely that the substance being eaten or craved for may contain the vitamin needed.”
Speaking further, he said:
“Some of these substances are not poisonous but there is risk of infection. For example, chalk is not toxic but when it is in storage, it is not uncommon for ants, rodents and cockroaches to be in such stores, and so it becomes unsafe for eating.
“Likewise, ice could lead to pneumonia or other cold-related infections; sand, soap and other substances are naturally unhealthy for consumption.
“Whenever you see your children putting strange things in their mouth, especially after a particular age when they can differentiate between food and non-food substances, call for medical attention.”
The medical practitioner, nevertheless clarified that autistic children were an exception because they naturally tend to eat non-food substances, but they still need to be corrected.
“If need be, parents should seek medical help for their autistic child because they may be suffering from iron or other mineral or vitamin deficiencies; so, parents should watch out for signs of pica in their children.
“Sometimes, it may be a pointer to a more serious health condition,’’ he said.