baby hands playing in the dirt
flickr / Barry Lenard

What To Do If Your Kid Eats Poop — Or Something Just As Gross

flickr / Barry Lenard
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There will come a time when all reason will fail you in the face of unimaginable horror. And who will be responsible for this horror? It will be your child, as they put a gob of glistening poop in their tiny little maw. Because let’s face it, the stuff in the litter box looks uncannily like almond roca.

And oh, if it were only just poop. A quick scan of the “weird stuff your kid has eaten” thread on Reddit reveals your kid will hit a smorgasbord of nastiness:  cat food, foam footballs, earthworms, stink bugs, pebbles, glass … Basically anything they can get their grubby mitts on. You better learn what’s going on, and how to take action.

Why!? Dear, God! Why!?

For the vast majority of children, eating non-food stuff is just part of the process of exploration. They might see the dog getting excited about treats and wonder what the fuss is about. Or they might get something new and interesting in their hands and want to explore it with their mouth. Just like you during puberty! (Gross!)

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 do this, in fact. True story.

A Note On PICA

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.

How To Respond

Calling poison control is a no-brainer in circumstances where your kid is noming on your deodorant stick, licking laundry pods, or quaffing bleach. (Though you took precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen, right?) But, giant question marks explode around your head 1920s-comic-book style when your kid downs something a bit less obvious.

Luckily, in most of these circumstances, panic isn’t necessary (in fact, it rarely ever is). And there are two broad guidelines to follow: never induce vomiting and call poison control if you are ever in doubt.

Much of the stuff your kid can get into from day to day is not capital “P” poisonous. Unpleasant? Yep. A choking hazard? Most assuredly. But in small amounts, nothing to worry about.

With help from the amazing Illinois poison center blog, it’s time to get specific. Here’s what to do if your kid eats …


In small amounts most poop won’t be harmful, but it could give your kid food-poisoning like symptoms.

What To Do: Watch for diarrhea, vomiting, and fever, which could occur within 30 minutes to 4 hours of ingestion. If symptoms don’t show up, give them some water and keep an eye out. If symptoms do show up and persist, it’s a good idea to call your kid’s doc.

Pet Food

Small amounts of various pet chow and treats will likely be harmless. However, experts have linked some pet food to salmonella outbreaks.

What To Do: Call your pediatrician and let them know. Ask about salmonella symptoms.

Worms and Bugs

These creatures are non-toxic and are unlikely to cause any serious issues.

What To Do: Tell them to stop eating bugs and worms. Also, gag silently to yourself.


Much of the dirt your kid could get their hands on isn’t going to be terribly toxic. That said, it could lead to food poisoning like symptoms if it contains harmful bacteria or viruses.

What To Do: Follow the protocol for poop. If your kid is sick, call your pediatrician.

Mushrooms, Berries and Houseplants

These things can be incredibly toxic to little systems. Also, there is a tremendous variety which means you’ll likely need help.

What To Do: Get poison control on the horn and make sure you snap a picture of the offending mushroom, berry or plant in question to help the experts identify the risk.

Your Stash

Pot decriminalization is occurring in many states. Consequently, more kids are accessing dope. Keep in mind that little systems aren’t ready for your grownup nonsense.

What To Do: In the most extreme cases of pot “poisoning” a kid’s breathing could become too shallow to provide enough oxygen. Also, because dosage is hard to understand for legal weed, your best course of action is to call poison control. They are more interested in keeping your kid safe than narcing you out. They’re there to help.

Small Objects

The biggest concern here is that things like marbles or little toys could obstruct airways. They are rarely toxic but could cause internal damage if there are sharp edges.

What To Do: Call poison control. They can direct you towards next steps.

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