Fingernails can be a window to what’s going on deep inside you! Pale, whitish nail beds may be a symptom of anemia. White nails may indicate liver disease, while red nail beds may indicate heart disease. So what do short, chewed off nails mean?
Why Some Children Chew Their Fingernails
Some children develop the habit of chewing on their fingernails. Maybe they do it because they have frequent hangnails or split nails that are annoying them. Maybe they observe a parent or caregiver do it, and they are simply imitating a learned behavior. But for many children, it is believed that biting nails is a form of stress relief.
Is Nail-Biting Bad?
Why should we care? Is it really something we should concern ourselves over? That is a question only you can answer. If it doesn’t bug you, then go ahead and ignore it. Generally, most kids outgrow this habit about the time that it starts to bother them.
However, there are a number of reasons why you should care. Consider the following, and decide if you want to help your child break himself from his chewing habit.
- children’s hands touch a lot of things! They are dirty! Think of all the bacteria they are ingesting every time they bite their nails!
- Chewed fingernails can become stuck between teeth or under the gums, spreading bacteria and leading to cavities and gum disease.
- torn nails and damaged skin are breeding grounds for bacteria. The nail bed can become infected. The the whole finger can become inflamed.
- compulsive nail biting in young children can lead to deformed teeth
- Lead is found in higher concentrations among nailbiters than the general public. Lead poisoning can significantly lower I.Q. levels.
- Adults who continue to chew their nails are less productive than their non-gnawing counterparts.
Some Things to Try to Break This Habbit
If he’s chewing away while watching T.V., then it’s just a mindless habit. Getting him to stop may be no harder than helping him find something else to occupy his hands. You can keep drawing paper, pencils and crayons near the T.V. and encourage him to draw instead. With an older child, you could try teaching them to knit or crochet. A child who mindlessly chews his nails is also a child who may start to mindlessly eat – so finding a better thing to do with his hands could save him from a weight problem in the future.
The Stressed or Fearful Biter
Does your child bite when when she is scared, worried, frightened, intimidated, or otherwise experiencing stress? This is believed to be the main reason why people – child and adult alike – chew their nails.
Teach your child what emotions are. Help him verbalize them all. If you see him throwing toys and screaming, tell him, “I see that you are angry. It is okay to be angry. It is not okay to throw toys and scream in the house, but it is okay to be angry. Can you think of something better to do when you get like this? What if you went outside and pounded nails into a log?” (Or whatever activity you feel would be a good way to release stress).
If your child only seems to gnaw away when his nails are rough and annoying him, then make a manicure part of the nightly bath routine. Trim his nails, file them smooth. Teach him how to wash beneath the nails with a nail brush. Help him learn to use an emory board to sooth away ragged edges. Rub a bit of moisturizer into the nail and cuticle every night. If your yougster would like it, try painting on some nail polish. Help her to see her nails as something pretty, rather than something delicious.
Many people have found a cure in a bottle. They buy products that make the nail taste bad to discourage biting. Now there are natural products that you can use, that won’t poison your little one. One product uses pepper and citric acid. Another uses a blend of bitter-tasting vitamins and minerals. Some websites say NOT to use these products unless your child is eager and willing to stop this habit. I wonder why? Is it not “good parenting” to teach our children? We teach our children to brush their teeth and to hold our hand before crossing the street. We don’t ask them if they mind having their teeth clean or if they object to surviving to walk across the street another day! I say “hog wash”. If your child is a biter, and you want to stop this habit, then try every product on the market until something works!
If you found a way to break your child of this habit that is not mentioned here, please share it! We look forward to hearing from you.
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