Nail and Finger Biting SOS

I first wrote about our problem back in August here, and then in September over here. The September link also has a picture of a chewing tube which we got from the ST to try to reduce the apparent need to chew on something. The tube helped somewhat in the short-term. Now however, he refuses it, and throws it away if I give it to him. The finger chewing has gotten a bit better, but the nail-biting is worse than ever. He bites his finger nails till there is absolutely nothing left to grab to bite. His fingers often hurt and are often red. If there is just a tiny bit of nail or skin, he will chew and bite at it till it is gone.

On Saturday I noticed his left thumb was huge, red, filled with yellow icky stuff and he admitted to pain. He was pretty out of it, and ran a low fever. He also had a huge cold sore on his lip. He perked up after I gave him a fever reducer and was fine the rest of the evening. I decided to take him to the doctor the next day as it really looked badly infected. However on Sunday it looked a lot better and he did not have a fever, so we did not take him. On Monday I was sick with a fever/cold/throat ache and was  not much use for anything. Yesterday when I picked him up from Kindergarten he had yet another cold sore and a few red dots in his face. I called our awesome doctor and got an appointment a few hours later.

Sure enough, the infection in his thumb has spread. It was not a cold sore but a Staphylococcus infection spreading from his thumb. He bites his nail and the infection got in his mouth an onto his face. Swell. Not so. See for yourself on these very non-pleasant pics:
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And the thumb looks A LOT better now than on Saturday…

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Also his index finger has been chewed on and gotten infected

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And the infection on his face

I am at a loss. I have NO IDEA how to get him to stop biting. What we have tried so far is:

Beiss-Ex, a nail polish type of thing you put on the finger nails and if you bite it tastes like crap. Did not work at all.

– Chewing tubes, see link above, limited success works somewhat for immediate chew urges, but did not last long and now he does not want to deal with them at all.

Chewing gum, I got a pack of V6 gum which is a tooth friendly gum. He liked them, only problem is that he swallowed them as soon as he could.

Trying to as much as possible tell him not to bite. He then stops but subconsciously he is right back at it in a second.

– Trying to distract him as much as possible, but realistically this is not possible to have him under 100% supervision for nail-biting.

I do not think he bites because he is nervous. He does not bite when he is busy with something. During his therapies he never bites. He bites when thinking, or calming down after a day (in front of the TV or just relaxing), he bites when he is falling a sleep (more finger chewing then than nail-biting).

Any more tips I could try?
Anyone having any success in getting your kid to stop biting?

3 Responses

  1. Oh, poor thing!!!! How awful! Sammi twirls her hair and grinds her teeth. Not out of anxiety, either, but just sensory-seeking, I guess. We keep trying to re-direct her, and I keep telling her the Tooth Fairy doesn’t like broken teeth. She understands, but it’s so subconscious that she keeps on doing it.

    Can you get that icky-tasting bitter stuff to put on his fingers to stop him? I think you can get it at any big drug store in the nail-care aisle. I remember when I was little, and sucked my thumb (until I was 7!) and bit my nails, we got it and it tasted so nasty I didn’t want to put my hands in my mouth at all. Don’t know if that’s what worked or not, but I’ve heard it’s a good deterrent.

    Good luck!

  2. I know this sounds terrible, but if it happens mostly during sleep or TV watching, can you put long socks over his hands (and up his arms), or mittens, so that he does not have access to his fingers? Perhaps then he will suck on the cloth, but at least there won’t be biting and infections.

    I had to do the long skiing socks over the hands when my daughter had stitches on her leg, to keep her from scratching off the bandage and opening the wound.

    Another thought is to find something that he might like to manipulate constantly with his hands — some toy or object that feels good to him. Maybe he needs to squeeze clay, or pull threads, or turn beads on a string. Something mindless to keep his hands busy while he watches TV.

    Good Luck!

  3. Hello. My son, Erick is 6 years old. He is doing the same thing. We have tried many types of therapies without success. I know how you feel. One thing that has worked is when he is outdoors playing. When he is outside he concentrates on the stuff that surrounds him and does not feel the need to suck or lick. Unfortunately, we live in Colorado and during winter he stays home most of the time, which increases the problem.
    I don’t have a solution for the problem but at least I wanted to tell you that I share your feelings. May God give you wisdom to handle tjis situation. Thanks for loving your little man.

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