It is not normal for growing children to refuse to eat food for long periods of time. Children in their natural state are hungry every few hours. Refusing to eat is a sign of an underlying medical problem. If your child is not eating, take her to the doctor as soon as possible.
If you have to coerce your child to eat with threats and bribes, something is wrong. Even if she does manage to choke down some food in the face of adult pressure, it is not normal behavior.
Some possible causes of refusal to eat:
- A Virus – A sudden onset of refusal to eat can be a first sign of a coming stomach bug.
- Constipation – A child who is constipated may stop eating and may be unable to explain why.
- Eosinophilic Esophigitis – EE can cause the throat to become so swollen and raw that is it extremely painful to eat.
- Anorexia Nervosa – Younger children as well as teenagers can develop a psychological aversion to eating.
- Food Sensitivity - Sometimes there is a food sensitivity such as Celiac Disease that is interacting with the psychological aspects of anorexia.
- Another Underlying Medical Condition – Many diseases that affect the kidneys, liver, or entire body can cause a loss of appetite in children. If your child is not eating anything, seek help from your pediatrician.
More About Picky Eaters and Hidden Medical Problems
- Children with Texture Aversions
- Children who Eat only One or Two Foods
- Children Who Gag on Solid Foods
- Children Who Won’t Eat [Insert Food]
Ernsperger, Lori, Ph.D. and Tania Stegen-Hanson, OTR/L. Just Take a Bite: Easy, Effective Answers to Food Aversions and Eating Challenges. Future Horizons, Arlington, TX.
North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. Hepatitis B Vaccine. Accessed online 1/14/2011. http://www.naspghan.org/user-assets/Documents/pdf/diseaseInfo/2008%20Revisions/Hepatitis%20B%20-%20Reviewed%20August%202008.pdf