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My child eats threads from socks and towels. What should I do?

Answered by Jerry Bubrick, PhD

Q My child eats threads from socks and towels. What should I do?

When children eat things that aren’t of any nutritional value, they may have a disorder called pica. My first piece of advice is to go to the pediatrician and tell them about what your son is eating. Your pediatrician should give your son an overall physical, to determine if he has any vitamin deficiencies. I recommend being open and honest with the doctor because it will help them do a more thorough assessment. If your son does have pica and there is a vitamin deficiency, treating that may stop the ingestion of non-food objects.

Sometimes kids also eat non-food objects because they have OCD. They do this because they are feeling anxious and eating the non-food object makes them feel better. Other kids don’t actually swallow things like threads, but they may like the feeling of it in their mouth because they have sensory processing issues. So if your son isn’t actually eating the thread then that is another possibility.

Whether it’s pica, OCD or a sensory issue, seeing a cognitive and behavioral therapist can help. Behavioral therapists are trained to figure out what is triggering problematic behaviors and then help kids find alternative things they can do instead. If your son has pica, an eating disorders specialist can also be helpful.