Is chewing sponge an indication of any deficiency in a child?

Q. Does chewing sponge indicate any deficiency in a child?

Answered by
Dr. Deepak Patel
and medically reviewed by Dr. Sneha Kannan
This is a premium question & answer published on Nov 20, 2015 and last reviewed on: May 22, 2023

Hi doctor,

My daughter, who is 11 years old, is found to chew sponge. She will not swallow but used to chew it. Could it be due to any deficiency? Otherwise, she is normal and healthy. Please help.



Welcome to

11 year old child chewing sponge could be due to two possible reasons which are as follows;

This could be a habitual thing. It has been noticed in some children that they have a habit of chewing things, lip-smacking, making noisy sounds during breathing, etc. For these habitual things, proper counseling is needed. One should not be angry with the child as this will lead to an increase in the related habit. The second cause could be pica. In pica, there is iron deficiency anemia and the child usually eats wall surface, whitewash, sponges, etc. In pica, children usually have anemia or low hemoglobin in simpler words. I suggest you do a complete blood count to look for anemia. I recommend you to give her a deworming drug like tablet Bandy plus (Albendazole) single dose at night time and advice complete blood count with proper counseling.

Hi doctor,

I am very grateful for your advice. I have a doubt regarding this medicine. When should I give it? Can it be given before the CBC? Please explain it in detail. Thank you.



Welcome back to

Tablet Bandy plus is a deworming drug. Actually, in patients of anemia, it is usually found that worms like amoebiasis and taenia are present in the intestine of patients. Due to worms, these children develop iron deficiency anemia.

Tablet Bandy plus should be given at night before sleep with water and after that, some sugar or milk is usually given.

A deworming drug can also be given in a healthy child with no symptoms. This will not cause any harm to the child so you do not have to worry about it.

If you want to give deworming drug later then you should do a stool routine microscopy test as this will tell us whether the child needs deworming drug or not.

Hi doctor,

Please find the attached CBC report of my daughter and suggest if she is iron deficient.



Welcome back to

In your child's report hemoglobin is 11.3 which should be around 13 at this age. MCV (mean corpuscular volume) is 65.4, MCH (mean corpuscular hemoglobin) is 19.8 and MCHC (mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration) is 30.2, all three are low for her age.

All the above findings are suggestive of iron deficiency anemia and this is the reason that your child is chewing sponge. For treatment, the child should be given Iron tablet for two months.

Since your child weight is 44 kg and 11 years of age tablet will be the more suitable form than syrup. Start Vitcofer tablet (Iron 100 mg+ Folic acid 1.5 mg) once a day for two months. Iron tablet should be given after meals and not in an empty stomach.

If Vitcofer is not available then you can take Fecorb XT or Fericos XT or Ferrogen XT, but please check the strength. It should be Iron 100 mg plus Folic acid 1.5 mg.

When you start iron for the first time, some children may develop black stools or black tongue. This is a normal thing and it will subside in a few days. So, do not stop the drug because of this.

Thanks doctor,

I will give her the tablets. Is there an option that diet can improve iron in her body?



Welcome back to

You are right. We need to give iron-rich foods to the child so that iron deficiency does not occur in the future. Food rich in iron are green leafy vegetables, jaggery, non-vegetarian diet if you eat, soybean, millet, chickpea, mint leaves, lotus stem, dates, raisin, watermelon, pineapple, custard apple, lemon juice, and gooseberry. You can increase these food items in the diet.

I understand that you are very concerned about your child. Let me tell you that it will be good if you give a mixed diet with an increased proportion of iron-rich foods so that your child will not feel that you are very aggressive about food. This will definitely help you. Give iron tablets regularly and try to give iron-rich foods. Take care.

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