Fifteen-minute consultation: the child with pica

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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.

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