A child that occasionally eats sand could be suffering from pica. Pica is a psychological disorder where a person is obsessed with eating things that are not food. It could be soil or rocks for pregnant women, and for your kid, it could be sand. Pica becomes an official diagnosis when your child has been consuming sand for more than one month. Eating sand has a few benefits, but mostly it will result in severe damage to your child’s internal organs.
Why your kid is eating sand:
Sand eating in children is a symptom of a related nutritional deficiency. Your child’s body is probably low on minerals such as iron and zinc, so they are subconsciously eating sand to compensate for this imbalance. From your kid’s perspective, they have this strong urge and hunger for something that tastes like minerals, and sand seems to quench that thirst.
Another reason is that your child has a mental illness, or they are autistic. Children with autism tend to struggle with pica.
Is it safe or dangerous for my kid to eat sand?
Sand is coarse, and when swallowed, the rough particles will tear the walls of your child’s digestive system. This will result in blood appearing in their stool, and they will suffer from constipation. Apart from severe stomach ache, your kid may experience diarrhea.
Since your child’s mouth is still developing, the sand particles will rub against the teeth and cause gum bleeding. Gum bleeding opens up an opportunity for harmful bacteria to infect the wound and lead to oral infections.
The sand itself may be contaminated even if it is sand from a hygienic playground sandbox. The most dangerous kind of sand that has been exposed to the elements and all sorts of microorganisms and bacteria are inhabiting the particles. Your child may exhibit an allergic reaction when they unknowingly eat algae that are growing on the sand.
The sand your child is consuming could contain fecal matter from different kinds of animations. For example, mishandling cat feces will result in toxoplasmosis. Medical research reveals that the infection can alter the development of your child’s brain. This mostly happens to kids who have a weak immune system.
Other complications include bowel obstruction, and large quantities of sand may block your kid’s intestines. Sand eating will cause dental erosion, which will make your child experience pain when chewing.
Ways to Treat Your Child’s Sand Eating:
First Aid for Sand Eating
The first measure is to offer your child lots of drinking water so that they will gaggle out the sand in their mouth. Let them drink some more to prevent any blockage in the intestines. The next step is for your child to brush their teeth and floss thoroughly. This will pull out any sand particles that are stuck in between the teeth.
Offer an Alternative
Talk to your kid and provide something else that they can eat instead of sand. You can have a ready snack always available for them, mostly when they play in places where there is sand. Introduce a reward system where you give treats to your kid when they don’t eat sand.
Surgery is expensive, and no one can predict the success rate of a particular operation. Another downside to this medical procedure is the possibility of coming out with a permanent defect. So, when you discover that your kid eats sand, do your best to avoid surgery.
Nutrition and Medicine
It is essential that your child’s diet is well balanced and contains much-needed minerals. When your kid is eating right, they will see no point in continuing to swallow sand. If the sand eating behavior persists, contact your pediatrician. The doctor will first carry out tests and prescribe medication such as lisdexamfetamine. This medicine, which is also known as Vyvanse, can control the abnormal sand eating habit.
It is okay for your kid to eat minimal quantities of sand for experimentation. The experience of eating a bit of sand can strengthen your child’s body. However, you should be more than concerned when they are swallowing sand by the handful. Immediately this habit comes to your attention: rush your child to the ER and then to a child psychologist.