At one time or another, most people will put a finger in their mouth and chew on their nail. While nail biting may seem like an innocent habit, often done without even thinking, it can have some unpleasant effects. Fortunately, most effects of nail biting will clear up once you break the habit.
Most people who bite their nails are in their teens, according to an article in “The Washington Post.” You may notice your adolescent child gnawing on his fingernails while studying or watching television. Younger children may also bite their nails as well as some adults, but this is rarer, especially after a person turns 30. Up to 20 percent of adults bite their nails, according to “The Washington Post,” compared to nearly 50 percent of teenagers. Boys are more likely to chew their nails than girls.
Effects of Nail Biting
The most common effects of nail biting are nails that look uneven and jagged, torn and bloody cuticles and swollen, red fingertips. There is the risk that the skin around the nails will be become infected or that warts will grow near the nails, according to MayoClinic.com. Nail biting is also an extremely unhygienic habit. Think of all the places your child’s hands go through out the day. Now, imagine him chewing on those hands. Chewing on the nails increases a person’s risk for colds and other infections in the mouth.
Myths About Nail Biting
Fortunately, nail biting usually does not cause long-term damage, according to MayoClinic.com. Several myths about the effects of nail biting abound. For instance, some people believe that constantly biting the nails will prevent them from growing back. Unless the nail bed, the part near the cuticle, is damaged, a person’s nails should continue to grow back after being bitten. The bitten-off nails will not end up in your child’s appendix should he swallow them, according to “The Washington Post,” nor is there a chemical in the nails that makes them addictive, according to “Women’s Health” magazine.
Breaking the Habit
Habits are often difficult to break, but with a bit of effort, you can help your child stop biting his nails. You may want to try painting the nails with a polish that tastes bitter or spicy. Keep in mind that your child may grow to enjoy the taste of the polish, so this may not be an effective treatment. Trim your child’s nails regularly so that he doesn’t have much to bite off. Find activities for him that will keep his hands busy, such as playing the piano or working on craft projects.
Cause for Concern
In some cases, nail biting can point to a more serious problem. According to KidsHealth, a habit disorder, such as nail biting, can often occur along with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). If you fear your child’s nail biting may be connected to OCD, you may want to get him psychological help. In some cases, behavioral therapy can treat the habit disorder, along with the OCD. In more severe cases, your child may need medication.