Mum fears for girl, 10, as rare condition means she can’t stop eating her clothes

A mum has spoken of her anxiety as her daughter suffers from a rare condition which means she craves inedible items that could end up poisoning her.

Jai Butler, 10, suffers from rare disorder, Pica, a compulsive eating disorder in which people eat non-food and non-nutritional items.

Her condition started with her eating tissue paper, something her mother Naomi didn’t think was too alarming as kids tend to put things in their mouth.

But her mum, 40 and from Manchester, realised it was much more serious than she thought when her daughter turned seven and started munching on her own clothing, plastic plants and elastic bands.

The schoolgirl is now set for blood tests to make sure she isn’t poisoning herself.

Mum Naomi said: “The biggest worry is that one day she’ll be rushed to hospital with stomach pains because she’s poisoned herself.

“I’ve changed all of her jumpers to 100 per cent cotton because I’m worried about all the chemicals in fabric and at least I know they’ll bio-degrade in six months.

“I gave her some hand heaters and she chewed the crystals out of them which really made me panic and she got really upset but I wasn’t cross I was just worried.

“I don’t want chemicals inside of her, it’s really scary.

“She eats rubber, erasers, elastic bands and pieces of wood.

“I’m constantly checking clothes, I find toilet roll tubes with bite marks in them and when we swapped bedrooms, I found around 40 pieces of chewed up toilet paper shoved down the side of the bed because she was worried I would find them.

“I tell her how unhygienic toilet tissue is and ask her how she feels about the fact paper is so unhygienic and she said it makes her feel horrible but she can’t help it.”

Naomi realised her daughter’s condition was beyond her control when the little girl burst into tears after being told off for chewing on some tissue paper.

“It really goes through me, like how some people don’t like nails down a chalkboard,” Naomi said, while stressing she no longer gets cross but “panics” as she worries her daughter may harm herself.

Things got really bad for Jai when she went back to school last year and started eating her jumpers.

“Within two hours, she had eaten one side of the cuff from one jumper.”

Naomi has been forced to throw out four school jumpers which Jai has chomped her way through and is trying to find safe alternatives for her to chew on.

She said: “I want to find something that fulfils that need for her but I also know will bio-degrade.

“I’ve tried chewing gum but that doesn’t fulfil her in the same way.

“If I could, I would get her sterile organic wool that I know will bio-degrade and tell her that if she feels the need to eat something, she can eat that.

“I’ve tried carrots in her lunchbox, chewable jewellery but it’s not the same.

Jai’s condition has worsened during lockdown as she’s become more irritable and anxious and she suffers from teasing at school due to her habit.

Naomi is speaking out to encourage parents who suspect their child might be eating inedible objects to start a conversation with them about it.

She said: “I feel really sorry for anyone going through this on a bigger scale.

“If I leave her playing video games or doing something which engages her mind, she isn’t so bad, but if she’s bored or anxious it’s worse.

“At first, when I didn’t realise she couldn’t control it, I would get really frustrated but now I just want to know how I can help and support her.

“If anyone is concerned that their child is eating things, they shouldn’t be scared to talk about it and should get information from anywhere they can, even if it’s a fellow Pica sufferer.

“Jai isn’t hiding it now which is really important and she wants other children to know about the condition so they don’t tease anyone who might be going through it.”