Taking the sponge

A curious case of a two year old infant who had a sponge-eating obsession. The report is taken from a small case series of compulsive sponge-eating in children, published in medical journal Acta Pædiatrica.

Remarkably, the child was successfully and quickly treated just by correcting low iron levels in the blood.

A general practitioner referred a 32-month-old girl with an obsession of eating sponge since the age of 7 months. The obsession for the sponge aggravated to the extent that she could rip the cushions, car seats and mattresses to get the sponge out. The child was noticed to have a strong, irresistible urge and was seen finishing a fifth of sponge from a cushion in less than half an hour. Occasionally she had been seen eating carpet fibres and tissue papers. She was otherwise a fit and medically healthy girl with a normal intelligence and behaviour. The examination including general physical and systemic resulted to be unremarkable except pallor…

The child was diagnosed to be a case of pica with IDA [iron deficiency anemia] and was kept on 4 mg/kg per day of iron. The symptoms of eating sponge disappeared fully by correcting her IDA.

The mentions of “a case of pica” refers to a psychiatric disorder where people feel compelled to eat the inedible.

We’ve discussed several unusual adults case of pica previously on Mind Hacks, including people who compulsively eat bullets, coins and roofing plates.

Link to PubMed entry for sponge-eating case series.


  1. Jude
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    I can gauge my level of anemia by my desire to eat sandstone. It was especially bad when I lived at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Oops, time to take another multivitamin.

  2. Posted September 29, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    As soon as I start craving eating ice I know my iron’s dipped too low again. At least ice isn’t going to hurt me from eating it, though my dentist won’t be happy.

  3. Posted February 14, 2014 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    I am having the same problem with my two year old son. I knew awhile from about one year of age that his iron was low. The problem is getting really bad. He keeps stashes of sponge around the house and he gets so upset if you try to take it. It’s good to hear this can be treated.

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26,836 other followers