The gross things your kids eat that are dangerous (and the things that are just gross)

Photo: Andrew Lundquist (Shutterstock)

Babies don’t just explore the world with their hands and eyes. These curious creatures too learn about it with their mouths and will go to great lengths to learn about everything around them. Dirty old pennies? Yes. A TV remote? Certainly! Old food from under the couch? Naturally. The items that toddlers put in their cake holes would probably have been made before fear factor host Joe Rogan a little queasy and might make you a little concerned.

But which items are okay for a child to eat, and which one that warrant a call for poison control? We’ll see what to do when babies eat disgusting things.

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As we mentioned above, children use their mouths to learn about the world around them. However, there is an eating disorder called pica (PIE-kuh), in which a person eats things that are not considered food, such as rocks, chalk, and even paint chips. It can be caused by developmental problemsstress and hunger, and can lead to a number of health problems depending on what they eat. Nemours Children’s Health advises visit a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

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  • Poop: That’s not a candy bar they eat, and… according to the Missouri Poison Center, kids eating feces is more common than you’d like to think. The chances of them eating dookie increase if there is a pet in the house. The good news is that poop is non-toxic and has a foul taste (we’re told) that deters kids from eating a large amount. If you notice your child chewing on a toilet trout, wash his hands thoroughly and give him a glass of water. Call a doctor right away if they develop rare symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
  • Snot: If we explained last year, nibbling nose goblins can actually help kids build their immune systems, but the habit is socially unacceptable. It will be a process to get them to stop so explain to kids why eating their snot is not a good thing, always keep tissues handy and give their hands something else to do.
  • Pet food: If you find your little one eating out of Fido’s bowl, that’s okay. According to the Illinois Poison Center, the ingredients in dog food include plant and animal ingredients such as corn, rice, wheat, beef, poultry and fish that, while lower in quality than human food, are still non-toxic. Be aware that larger pet pellets are a choking hazard.
  • Spoiled food: If your little one drank milk or ate something past its expiration date, don’t worry. Seattle Children’s Hospital says the risk of vomiting or diarrhea from eating expired food is small.
  • Dirt, insects and worms: We all ate dirt and got all rightright? According to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, mud and mud may contain feces, but as we explained above, it is non-toxic and the risk of developing diarrhea and other symptoms is small. If that happens, call your pediatrician. Should you be concerned that the dirt they ate contains bugs or worms, the Illinois Poison Center says these wobbly treats are unlikely to do any harm.
  • Coins: The change under your couch cushions has probably been a wild ride, but the metal in pennies and nickels isn’t toxic. However, they can pose a choking hazard to your child, so it might be a good time to see how much has fallen out of your pockets over the years. There may be enough to get a head start on that college fund.

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  • Mushrooms: After seeing The Super Mario Bros. movie, your kids may think that eating mushrooms will make them grow taller. The reality is that outside of the Mushroom Kingdom these fungi can be extremely poisonous. If your child eats mushrooms, the Illinois Poison Center recommends calling your local poison control center and taking a picture of the mushroom to help them determine the best treatment options based on what your child has been eating.
  • Berries and Plants: Certain berries that grow indoors and out can cause stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, drooling and drowsiness. Others can cause mouth irritation and, in the case of the castor bean plant, can lead to toxicity. If any of these symptoms occur, call your local poison control center as soon as possible.
  • Your hash stock: Many states have decriminalized recreational and medical cannabis use, including edibles, meaning there’s a higher chance of your child’s hand getting into your edible jar. The National Capital Poison Center says the THC can cause vomiting, dizziness, difficulty walking, increased heart rate, drowsiness, confusion and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, hallucinations, an abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure may occur. Call poison control or take them to the hospital immediately.
  • Vomit: Spitting up food is totally normal, but vomiting or eating vomit could be a sign of a bigger problem that requires your pediatrician’s expertise.

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