Inedible (Peak) Eating in Infancy and Childhood

What is Eating Inedible (Peak) in Infancy and Childhood?

It is characterized by persistent nutrition with non-food substances (dirt, paints, glue). A peak may occur as one of many symptoms, being part of a mental disorder, or may occur as a relatively isolated psychopathological behavior.

Reasons for Eating Inedible (Peak) in Infancy and Childhood

The following reasons are suggested: 1) the result of an abnormal relationship between mother and child affecting the unsatisfactory state of oral needs; 2) specific nutritional deficiency; 3) cultural factors; 4) the presence of mental retardation.


The disease is most common among children with mental retardation, but it can also be observed in young children with normal intelligence. The frequency of occurrence is 10 – 32.3% of children from 1 year to 6 years. It is observed equally often in both sexes.

Symptoms of Eating Inedible (Peak) in Infancy and Childhood

Diagnostic criteria

Repeated consumption of non-food substances for about 1 month.

Does not meet the criteria for disorders in the form of autism, schizophrenia, Klein-Levin syndrome.

Eating inedible substances is considered pathological from the age of 18 months. Usually children try paint, plaster, rope, hair, clothes; others prefer dirt, animal feces, stones, and paper. Clinical consequences can sometimes be life threatening, depending on which item is swallowed. With the exception of mentally retarded children, the peak usually goes to adolescence.

Diagnosis of Eating Inedible (Peak) in Infancy and Childhood

Non-food substances can be eaten by patients with disorders in the form of autism, schizophrenia and some physical disorders (Klein-Levin syndrome).

Eating unusual and sometimes potentially dangerous substances (food for animals, garbage, drinking toilet water) is a frequent pathology of behavior in children with an underdevelopment of some organ (psychosocial dwarfism).

Inedible (Peak) Eating Treatment in Infancy and Childhood

Treatment is symptomatic and includes psychosocial, behavioral and / or family approaches.

Behavioral therapy using aversive techniques or negative reinforcement (weak electrical stimuli, unpleasant sounds or vomiting) is most effective. Positive reinforcement, modeling, and corrective therapy are also used. A therapeutic role is played by increasing the attention of parents to a sick child, stimulation and emotional education.

Secondary complications must be treated (e.g., mercury poisoning, lead poisoning).