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Fifteen-minute consultation: the child with pica
  1. Ben McNaughten,
  2. Thomas Bourke,
  3. Andrew Thompson
  1. Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ben McNaughten, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, 180-184 Falls Road, Belfast BT12 6BE, UK; bmcnaughten095{at}hotmail.com

Abstract

Pica is defined as the persistent ingestion of non-nutritive substances for more than 1 month at an age at which this behaviour is deemed inappropriate. It occurs most commonly in children, in patients with learning disabilities and in pregnancy. The aetiology of pica is poorly understood and is probably multifactorial. Clinical assessment can be difficult. History and examination should be tailored to address potential complications of the substance being ingested. Complications can be life threatening. Pica often self-remits in younger children. In those with learning disabilities, however, pica may persist into adulthood. Management strategies should involve a multidisciplinary approach, and interventions are primarily behavioural in nature. There is limited evidence to support pharmacological interventions in the management of children with pica.

  • Pica
  • Geophagia
  • Lead Poisoning
  • General Paediatrics

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Footnotes

  • Contributors BM wrote the first draft. TB and AT reviewed the content and suggested amendments that BM incorporated. All authors approved the final version.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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