What Happens When Toddler Eats Poop: A Health Guide

what happens when toddler eats poop

As a parent, you may be alarmed to discover that your toddler has eaten feces. This behavior, known as coprophagia, can be concerning for many reasons. In this article, we will explore the potential effects, risks, and health consequences of a toddler eating poop and provide practical guidance on how to prevent and address this behavior.

Key Takeaways:

  • Coprophagia, or the eating of feces, can pose potential risks to the health of a toddler.
  • Possible reasons for this behavior may include curiosity, sensory exploration, or developmental stage.
  • Risks associated with a toddler consuming feces include exposure to harmful bacteria, parasites, and the transmission of diseases.
  • Health consequences that may arise from a toddler ingesting feces include gastrointestinal issues, infections, and potential complications.
  • Proper hygiene practices and monitoring of a toddler’s environment can help prevent this behavior.

Why Do Toddlers Eat Poop?

It can be alarming and confusing when a toddler engages in the behavior of eating feces. While it may seem repulsive to adults, this behavior is not uncommon in children and can be a result of several factors.

Curiosity: Toddlers are naturally curious about the world around them, and feces is just another object that catches their attention. They may want to touch, taste, or smell it to understand it.

Sensory exploration: Young children often explore their environment through their senses. For some toddlers, eating feces may be an extension of this exploration.

Developmental stage: Eating feces can be a normal behavior for some toddlers who are in a certain developmental stage, usually between the ages of 18 and 24 months. It is a way for them to explore boundaries and assert their independence.

While the reasons behind a toddler’s behavior may not always be clear, it is important to address the behavior promptly to prevent any potential health risks and complications.

Potential Risks of Toddler Eating Poop

While it may be shocking and repulsive to see your toddler eating poop, it is important to recognize the potential risks associated with this behavior. Consuming feces can expose your child to harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause a range of health problems.

One of the main risks of a toddler eating poop is the transmission of diseases. Feces may contain viruses and bacteria that can lead to infections, including rotavirus, norovirus, salmonella, and E. coli. These infections can cause a range of symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fever, and can be particularly dangerous for infants and toddlers.

In addition, exposure to feces can also lead to parasitic infections. Parasites such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium can be found in feces and can cause gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Another potential risk of a toddler eating poop is exposure to harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium difficile, which can cause severe diarrhea and intestinal inflammation. Ingesting feces can also lead to the development of infections in the urinary and respiratory tracts.

It is important for parents to understand the potential health implications associated with this behavior and seek medical attention promptly if their child displays symptoms of illness, particularly if there is reason to suspect their child may have ingested feces.

Health Consequences of Toddler Eating Poop

Eating poop, or feces, can have serious health consequences for your toddler. Feces contain harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses that can lead to infections and illnesses. When your toddler ingests feces, these harmful substances can enter their body and cause harm.

One of the most common health consequences of a toddler eating poop is gastrointestinal issues. Consuming feces can upset the delicate balance of your toddler’s digestive system, leading to diarrhea, stomach pain, and cramping. In some cases, your toddler may also experience vomiting.

Additionally, ingesting feces can put your toddler at risk for infections. Feces can contain pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter, which can cause serious illness. These infections can spread throughout your toddler’s body and affect other organs, leading to further health complications.

Furthermore, some parasites can be present in feces, such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. These parasites can lead to more severe health problems, such as dehydration and malnutrition.

Consuming feces can also lead to potential complications, such as dehydration. If your toddler experiences diarrhea after eating poop, they may become dehydrated and require medical attention. Additionally, if your toddler has an underlying medical condition, such as a weakened immune system, ingesting feces can increase their risk of complications.

It is important to seek medical attention if your toddler has consumed feces and is experiencing any of the above symptoms. Prompt medical attention can prevent further health complications and help your toddler recover quickly.

Signs of Illness After Eating Poop

If your toddler has consumed feces, it is important to monitor their health closely for any signs of illness. While not all children who eat poop will experience health problems, some may develop symptoms within a few hours or days after ingestion.

Common signs of illness from eating poop include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child following ingestion of feces, seek medical attention promptly. These signs may indicate a bacterial or viral infection, such as salmonella, E. coli, or hepatitis A, and require treatment to prevent further complications.

It is also important to note that if your child has any underlying medical conditions, such as a weakened immune system or gastrointestinal disorder, they may be at a higher risk for complications from consuming feces. Speak to your child’s healthcare provider for specific guidance and recommendations.

How to Prevent Toddler from Eating Poop

If your toddler has a tendency to eat poop, there are several steps you can take to prevent this behavior:

  1. Monitor: Keep an eye on your toddler and supervise them closely when playing outside or in areas where feces may be present. If you notice that your child is about to eat poop, immediately intervene and redirect their attention to a safer activity.
  2. Maintain a clean environment: Regularly clean and sanitize your child’s toys, as well as any outdoor areas they play in. Use disposable gloves and disinfectant to clean up any feces promptly, and avoid leaving soiled diapers or clothes lying around.
  3. Redirect: Provide your toddler with safe and age-appropriate activities that encourage exploration and curiosity. Offer healthy snacks or chew toys to satisfy their oral cravings, and distract them with playtime or other engaging activities if they show signs of boredom or restlessness.
  4. Consider a change in diet: In some cases, a toddler may be more likely to eat feces if they are lacking certain nutrients in their diet. Talk to your pediatrician about whether supplementing their diet with vitamins or adjusting their food choices may be helpful.

By taking these steps, you can reduce the risk of your child eating poop and promote a safe and healthy environment for their growth and development.

The Importance of Proper Hygiene

When a toddler eats poop, ensuring proper hygiene becomes paramount to reducing the risks of infections and other related health complications. Fecal matter contains harmful bacteria and parasites, making it crucial to take steps to maintain a clean environment.

Start by washing your hands and your toddler’s hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after diaper changes and before meals. This practice will reduce the risk of contamination and the transmission of infections, preventing the spread of germs.

Additionally, clean and disinfect all surfaces and toys that may have come into contact with feces. Use a bleach solution or a disinfectant recommended for use around children and babies. Ensure that all diaper-changing areas are clean and adequately sanitized to prevent the buildup of bacteria that can cause illnesses.

It is also essential to teach your toddler good hygiene practices as they grow older, such as proper handwashing techniques and the importance of not putting non-food items in their mouths. These practices can help prevent the ingestion of feces and reduce the risks of related health complications.

Overall, maintaining proper hygiene practices is a crucial step in preventing and addressing a toddler’s fecal ingestion behavior. By ensuring a clean and safe environment and practicing good hygiene habits, you can reduce the risks of infections and other related complications.

Communicating with a Healthcare Professional

If your toddler has eaten poop, you may be wondering if you should be concerned and if it warrants a visit to the doctor. The short answer is yes, you should be concerned and seek medical advice, especially if your child displays any signs of illness. Some of these signs may include stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever.

It’s essential to communicate your concerns with your pediatrician or healthcare provider and provide details about your child’s behavior and any symptoms they may be experiencing. Your healthcare provider may ask you questions about your child’s diet, any medications they are taking, and other relevant information to determine an appropriate course of action.

It’s important to note that in some cases, a toddler eating poop may be a sign of an underlying medical condition or neurodevelopmental disorder. Your healthcare provider may recommend further evaluation or testing to rule out any physical or developmental issues contributing to your child’s behavior.

Remember, always trust your instincts as a parent. If you have concerns about your toddler’s behavior, seek professional advice promptly.

If your toddler eats poop, this behavior may be an indication of a condition known as pica. Pica is characterized by the persistent ingestion of non-food substances, including dirt, hair, and paper, among other things. The condition can result from nutritional deficiencies or underlying medical conditions, such as iron-deficiency anemia or developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.

If your toddler engages in this behavior frequently, you should consult with a pediatrician to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the behavior. Behavioral therapy may be recommended if the habit persists and is related to psychological issues.

The condition may also be related to an oral fixation or a sensory processing disorder, which may require the involvement of occupational therapists to address the underlying issues. It is important to note that not all cases of pica are related to underlying medical or psychological conditions, and the behavior may be a temporary phase of childhood development.

In some cases, a toddler may eat poop as a means of seeking attention or manipulating their environment. If this is the case, implementing positive reinforcement for desired behaviors may be helpful in resolving the behavior.

It is essential to recognize that pica is a complex condition that requires careful evaluation and a thorough understanding of the underlying causes. Parental concern and support can go a long way in helping a toddler overcome this behavior and prevent potential complications.

Psychological Factors and Interventions

It is important to consider possible psychological factors that may contribute to a toddler eating poop. Some toddlers may engage in this behavior due to stress, anxiety, or as a way of seeking attention. If you suspect that your toddler’s behavior is related to psychological factors, it is recommended to seek professional help from a psychologist or counselor.

Behavioral therapy or counseling may assist in identifying the triggers and behaviors that may be contributing to the behavior and help develop strategies to manage it. These interventions may also help address any underlying emotional or behavioral challenges that the toddler may be experiencing.

It is crucial to approach any psychological interventions with sensitivity and patience. Toddlers may not be able to fully express their feelings or emotions, and it may take time to identify the underlying psychological factors contributing to the behavior. By addressing these factors through psychological interventions, parents may be able to reduce the likelihood of future occurrences of eating feces.

Seeking Support from Parenting Communities

Dealing with a toddler who eats poop can be a challenging and overwhelming experience for any parent. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that there are many other parents going through similar experiences.

One way to seek support is by joining parenting communities or online forums where you can connect with other parents facing similar challenges. This can provide a sense of community, validation, and helpful advice from others who have dealt with this behavior in their own children.

Parenting support groups can also offer resources and information on coping strategies, communication techniques, and professional services. These groups can be found online or in your local community, and can be a valuable resource for parents struggling with the effects of a toddler eating poop.

Remember that seeking support from others is not a sign of weakness, but rather a proactive step towards providing the best care for your child. By connecting with other parents and supportive communities, you can find comfort, guidance, and a sense of hope during this challenging time.

Educating Caregivers and Childcare Providers

If you have a toddler who eats poop, it’s important to educate your child’s caregivers and childcare providers about the risks associated with this behavior and how to prevent and address it in their care setting.

Start by having an open and honest conversation with your child’s caregivers or childcare providers about your concerns. Provide them with information about the potential health risks and consequences of a toddler consuming feces. Let them know what steps you are taking at home to prevent the behavior from happening and request their support in maintaining a clean and safe environment.

It’s also essential to ensure that your child’s caregivers and childcare providers understand that this behavior is not a result of neglect or poor parenting, but rather a common and developmentally typical behavior in toddlers.

Additionally, consider providing resources, such as articles or fact sheets, that explain the causes, risks, and preventative measures for this behavior. Encouraging open communication and collaboration with your child’s caregivers and childcare providers can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal of keeping your child safe and healthy.

Remember that educating your child’s caregivers and childcare providers is an ongoing process. Check-in regularly to see if there have been any incidents or if there are any concerns. By working together and sharing information, you can help prevent your child from engaging in this behavior and promote a safe and healthy environment for all.

Addressing Underlying Medical Conditions

If your toddler continues to engage in the behavior of eating feces, it may be worth exploring the possibility of underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the behavior.

In some cases, conditions such as nutritional deficiencies, gastrointestinal disorders, or developmental disorders may lead to this behavior. These conditions can often be identified through a medical evaluation by a healthcare professional.

If an underlying medical condition is found, treatment or therapy may be necessary to address the root cause of the behavior. This may involve dietary changes, medication, or other forms of therapy, depending on the specific condition.

It’s important to note that while medical issues may contribute to a toddler’s behavior of eating poop, it’s typically not the sole cause. Additional interventions, such as supportive parenting strategies or behavioral therapy, may still be necessary to address the behavior effectively.

If you suspect that your toddler may have an underlying medical condition contributing to their behavior, it’s essential to seek guidance from a healthcare professional promptly.

Supportive Parenting Strategies

If you are a parent dealing with a toddler who eats poop, it can be a difficult and frustrating time. However, it is important to remain patient and understanding, as this behavior is relatively common in young children. Here are some supportive parenting strategies to help you navigate this situation:

  • Try not to overreact or shame your child, as this may cause them to feel embarrassed and anxious.
  • Redirect your toddler’s attention to other activities or toys, especially those that promote exploration and sensory experiences.
  • Provide positive reinforcement when your child engages in appropriate behaviors, such as playing with their toys or eating their meals.
  • Ensure your child has access to healthy and nutritious foods, as nutrient deficiencies may contribute to pica behaviors.
  • Establish a consistent routine and set boundaries to help your child feel secure and reduce stress.
  • Consider seeking professional guidance or counseling if you feel overwhelmed or if your child’s behavior persists.

Remember that this behavior is typically a phase that will pass with time, and with supportive parenting, you can help your child overcome this challenge.


As a parent, it can be unsettling and concerning to discover that your toddler has eaten poop. However, it’s important to understand that this behavior is not uncommon and often harmless. By educating yourself on the potential risks and health consequences, you can take the necessary steps to prevent your child from engaging in this behavior while promoting good hygiene practices.

Remember to watch out for signs of illness and seek professional medical advice if your child experiences any symptoms. Additionally, seeking support from parenting communities and educating caregivers and childcare providers can provide additional resources and strategies for addressing the behavior.

Finally, it’s essential to maintain a supportive and patient approach to parenting and seek professional assistance if necessary. With the right guidance and preventative measures, you can create a safe and healthy environment for your toddler to thrive in.


Q: What happens when a toddler eats poop?

A: When a toddler eats poop, there can be various effects on their health. It can expose them to harmful bacteria, parasites, and diseases, leading to potential risks and health consequences.

Q: Why do toddlers eat poop?

A: There can be several reasons why toddlers engage in this behavior. It may be due to curiosity, sensory exploration, or as a result of a developmental stage.

Q: What are the potential risks of a toddler eating poop?

A: The potential risks of a toddler consuming feces include exposure to harmful bacteria, parasites, and the transmission of diseases, which can negatively impact their health.

Q: What are the health consequences of a toddler eating poop?

A: Ingesting feces can lead to various health consequences for a toddler, such as gastrointestinal issues, infections, and potential complications that may require medical attention.

Q: What are the signs of illness after a toddler eats poop?

A: If a toddler has consumed feces, parents should watch out for signs such as stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. These symptoms indicate the need for medical attention.

Q: How can I prevent my toddler from eating poop?

A: To prevent this behavior, parents should monitor their toddler closely, redirect their attention to other activities, and maintain a clean environment to minimize access to feces.

Q: Why is proper hygiene important in relation to a toddler eating poop?

A: Maintaining good hygiene practices is crucial to minimize the risk of fecal ingestion and the spread of infections that can occur when a toddler engages in this behavior.

Q: Should I be concerned if my toddler eats poop?

A: If your toddler has consumed feces, it is advisable to seek advice from a healthcare professional to determine if further evaluation or intervention is necessary.

Q: What is pica, and how is it related to a toddler eating poop?

A: Pica is a condition characterized by the persistent consumption of non-food substances. A toddler eating poop could be a manifestation of pica or other related disorders.

Q: Are there psychological factors and interventions that can help with a toddler eating poop?

A: Psychological factors may contribute to a toddler’s behavior. Interventions such as behavioral therapy or counseling can be beneficial in addressing and managing this issue.

Q: How can I educate caregivers and childcare providers about a toddler eating poop?

A: It is important to educate caregivers and childcare providers about the risks associated with this behavior and provide them with guidance on prevention and appropriate response in their care settings.

Q: Could underlying medical conditions be contributing to a toddler eating poop?

A: It is possible that underlying medical conditions may contribute to a toddler’s behavior. Seeking medical evaluation can help rule out any physical or developmental issues.

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