When children get nervous or bored, they may resort to nervous habits, one of the most common being biting their nails. While it may seem like an innocent habit, parents may need to investigate the root cause of this habit and whether it can damage their physical health as well. We have tips to help your kiddos stop biting their nails.
Clinically referred to a onychophagia, nail biting includes not only biting the physical nail but also the surrounding tissue and cuticles, according to the C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital. For many children, it can be a temporary habit that they grow out of, but there could be long-term significant problems. It is one of the body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB) along with hair pulling, skin picking and thumb sucking.
If the habit seems to last longer than temporary, experts suggest parents begin to find the cause of the nervous habit. It’s possible they are just bored or picked up a habit from another sibling or friend. However, it could also be a sign of mental distress or anxiety. A study published in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Mental Health Journal suggest that psychiatrists “should look for nail biting amongst their patients who present with mental health care problems [as it] may indicate anxiety.”
According to Healthday, of all of the BFRB’s, nail biting is most common habit to follow children as they become adults. For young children, parents should guide and pace treatment for their child. If they suspect anxiety, they should visit a trained therapist and build a treatment plan with their parents, said the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.
Children typically tend to bite their nails when they are going through a particularly stressful time with friends or at school, said the Mayo Clinic. Parents should talk to their children about issues happening outside the home. Talk with them about why they bite their nails and what may prompt it.
Besides mental health issues like anxiety or possible obsessive- compulsive disorder, nail biting can also pose physical health risks such as red and sore cuticle beds, which may bleed and infect the area around the nail and in your mouth. It can also cause oral damage and help to spread germs from your hands to mouth that can cause colds, or worse, pinworms and other conditions, said the Mayo Clinic.
What are some at-home treatments? Keep nails trimmed and clean. Verywell Family suggests keeping another healthy oral substitute like crunchy carrot or celery sticks. Try giving them stress relievers like stress balls or fidget spinners. Bite-averting nail polish is a traditional treatment—just be sure it does not contain harmful chemicals. Try Elle and Mila Nail “No More Biting” Polish or the Mavala Stop Polish, which are vegan with no harmful chemicals.
Looking for a nail-biting solution?
Try Mavala Stop Nail Biting and Thumb Sucking nail enamel. For children over 3 years old and adults, this clear and harmless enamel provides a bitter taste when applied to nails that are put in the mouth.
*Always consult your doctor prior to treating children who bite their nails.