Kids of a certain age will put anything in their mouths. Dirt, toys, or an ancient french fry they found in the cracks of the couch it doesn’t seem to matter. One thing that can often get into a child’s mouth is chalk. So why does your child eat chalk? Here are a few things to know.
Chalk is easy to chew and has little taste
Once chalk is in your mouth it is soft and easy to chew. The texture is not so different to some types of candy. It is soft and, well, chalky. It will start to melt when it comes into contact with saliva.
The taste is very neutral, not bitter or sweet, and inoffensive. There is nothing about chalk that makes it particularly repulsive to eat. Your child could easily grow to like the soft texture, not unlike the soft mints present at most weddings.
Chalk is non-toxic
Chalk is a non-toxic substance which is why it is safe for kids to play with. Chalkdust will almost inevitably end up in your child’s mouth at some point. While chalk shouldn’t be eaten regularly it is unlikely to harm your child. Eating enough chalk can cause an upset stomach and may cause vomiting or diarrhea, too. Poison Control services recommend keeping an eye on your child if they have eaten chalk. However, emergency medical help is not needed.
Chalk could introduce bacteria or parasites if eaten
There is a chance that eating chalk could introduce bacteria or parasites into your child’s system. This likelihood is no higher than if they were to chew on or eat any other non-food substance.
Chalk does not carry any bacteria or parasites that are unique to chalk. It does pick them up from contact with other surfaces such as hands, the ground, and storage containers. Your child may be at increased risk of infection or colds if they eat chalk.
Chalk can be a choking hazard
Despite being soft and beginning to dissolve in the mouth, small pieces of chalk can be a choking hazard. If you notice that your child has gotten into this habit you should keep an eye on them. The choking hazard is the most dangerous risk associated with eating chalk.
Eating chalk might be a sign of Pica
Pica is an eating disorder where a person feels compelled to eat objects that are not food. Most often individuals with pica will eat dirt, chalk, clay, glue, paper, or wood chips. It is thought to be linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Symptoms can also be related to malnutrition and many pregnant women develop the disorder. Many with pica also have low red blood cell count and low levels of zinc. The underlying cause of pica is not entirely known. The disorder can be present in children or in adults.
Eating strange things a few times is not a cause for concern. A child must display this behavior for at least one month before a diagnosis of pica can be considered. In children, pica is usually linked to developmental delays, OCD, and intellectual disabilities. If your child has pica there are things your doctor can do to help.
Your child might be following a new trend
If your child is old enough to spend time on YouTube they may have stumbled on a strange new trend. A new bizarre trend on the internet has had many vloggers eating chalk. This new internet challenge is less dangerous than some in the past. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a bad idea or that your child should mimic what they see online. Kids want to copy what they see others do, that’s always been true. If you think that this is the case, you should sit down and talk to your child about the dangers involved.