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What To Do When Your Kid Eats Dirt & Other Nasty Things

Posted in Food Safety,Our Blog on December 5, 2018

Parents unite! We have all faced it. We are sitting around unsuspecting that anything is about to go wrong when all of a sudden your child does it; and by it I mean eats something absolutely disgusting. I mean so nasty you want to wash your own mouth out with soap. Has your child ever eaten poop? How about ear wax? Boogers? Earthworms? Dirt?

A recent article on Fatherly says:

For the vast majority of children, eating non-food stuff is just part of the process of exploration. After all, the lips, tongue, and face are some of the places with the most nerve receptors in the body. If you want to get the most information about a thing as you possibly can, shoving it into your pie hole isn’t the worst idea. Many scientists still consider doing tasting a valid form of inquiry.


For a smaller number of children, eating non-food related things could be linked with developmental disabilities or early brain injury. In these children, the condition is called PICA. It’s also experienced by some women during pregnancy.

You can differentiate PICA from normal developmental exploration if you find that your kid persists in eating specific non-food stuffs, despite attempts to curb the behavior. Another indication is if the behavior continues past an age when it’s appropriate to explore things with the mouth.

What Do You Do When Your Kid Eats Something Nasty?

Call Poison Control or contact them online using the poison control online tool.

The number is 1-800-222-1222.  Here are examples of when to use the online tool:

No serious symptoms. If the individual collapses, has a seizure, has trouble breathing or can’t be awakened, call 911 right away.

  • Drugs or medicines (including both over-the-counter and prescription meds), household products, flowers, or berries. If the situation involves a bite or sting, mushroom, coin, or food poisoning, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 instead of using this tool. But we’re adding features daily, so check back the next time you need Poison Control help.
  • Single substances (only one product) involved. The drug or product can have multiple ingredients, but web POISON CONTROL can’t handle multiple drugs or products until we develop the logic for interactions and additive effects.
  • Taken once. This tool is designed for one-time poison exposures that occur over a short period of time (minutes to a few hours). If you take the medication regularly or if you were exposed chronically or repeatedly, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for assistance.
  • Unintentional. No self-harm or suicide attempts. When self-harm is involved, immediate evaluation by a healthcare provider, usually in an ER, is always advised.
  • Age 6 months to 79 years. Special issues arise in the very young or in older adults.
  • Not pregnant! We haven’t addressed risks to the fetus or the pregnant mom.
  • Otherwise healthy. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, don’t use this tool. Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 instead to make sure there are no special considerations for your disease.
  • Human. Don’t use this tool for your pets! Toxicity differs between species.

Now lets get down to the nitty gritty:

Here are some tips for what to do if your child consumes some really nasty stuff


If consumed in a small amount most poop won’t harm your child. The largest concern is if a child consumes mouse poop, but others will result in some digestive concerns. Watch for serious diarrhea and if symptoms persist call the child’s doctor.


Gross– We have all seen it happen and most likely we did it ourselves. I believe there may be some photo evidence of me doing it somewhere in the family archives, but while boogers may not be a part of a balanced diet there is no proof that they will harm a child or anyone else. Just insist that the child not do it for social reasons.

Spit Up:

It is not uncommon to see a child spit up food and consume it again. (GROSS!!) Make sure you know the difference between spit up and vomit. If your child is vomiting be sure to consult a physician.

Pet Food:

Most pet food is harmless but some experts link pet food to salmonella so again do not encourage your child to have a snack made for Sparky. Be aware of the symptoms of salmonella.

Bugs & Dirt:

Bugs are usually non-toxic and are not likely to cause any serious issues. Dirt can actually be healthy for kids and help them build a more healthy immune system. Just be aware that some dirt can contain fecal matter as well as fertilizers in which case food poisoning symptoms can become an issue.

House Plants, Mushrooms and Berries:

When in the wild (or even in the sun room at home) house plants, mushrooms and berries can be incredibly toxic to children and their little bodies. Be sure to snap a picture of the offending plant, mushroom or berry and get in touch with poison control as soon as possible.

So we have covered some pretty well known things that kids can and will normally put into their mouths. While some are disgusting and I personally wouldn’t want to taste them myself it is good to know that they will not harm our kids but so much and there are steps to take should we need to utilize the lovely people at poison control.

My Own Poison Control Story:

3 year old boy decides that deodorant smells good, so it may taste good too… decides to roll up the stick and take a bite. I called poison control immediately and was met by the most friendly voice who took some information and let me know that this was highly common and boys were more likely to do it than girls and I was her 3rd caller of the day with a curious little boy who thought deodorant would be tasty. I was told to monitor him closely but more than likely he would be okay. My panic ended with a little laughter speaking with this great lady who let me know that boys will be boys and that I wasn’t the worst mom in the world.

Poison Control saved the day!

By: Samantha Cooper, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)

**Full Disclaimer – We are not doctors. Our moms sometimes wish we were, but we aren’t. So, this information is informational only, and does not replace medical advice from a physician**