- Jessica Knight loves eating carpet underlay and furniture stuffing
- She also snacks on sand and rocks even though parents try to stop her
- Family now give her a purse full of sponge to control her cravings
- Jessica suffers from rare condition Pica but doctors say they can't treat her until she is six years old
Condition: Jessica Knight can't stop eating carpet underlay and the stuffing from soft furnishings
A four-year-old girl can't stop eating her own home because she suffers from a rare condition which makes her crave carpet underlay and sponge padding from furniture.
Jessica Knight is suffering from an extreme case of Pica, making her reject normal food and causing her to snack on inedible substances instead.
Her parents Kelly and Chris have tried to stop her eating sponge, sand and rocks as they fear it could lead to serious health problems.
However, they have had to give her a purse filled with little pieces of carpet in a bid to control her cravings.
Mrs Knight, 36, first realised something was wrong with Jessica when she started eating a faux leather chair at the age of two, and also the padding from a rocking horse belonging to her younger sister Jennifer.
She told her the habit could make her ill - but Jessica just started eating sponge in secret, and one day Mrs Knight saw that she had destroyed half the underlay beneath her carpet.
Mrs Knight, who lives with her husband and two daughters in March, Cambridgeshire, says she does not know what to do because doctors refuse to treat Jessica until she is six.
'I was really shocked when I realised just how much she was eating,' she said. 'If you lift up the carpet in her room now you can see there is no underlay left.
'We are at our wits' end. We try to keep her busy so she doesn't do it but if we try to stop her she will find a way to do it. To stop her I would have to remove everything from my house, including all chairs and sofas.
'Doctors always said it wasn't a problem and it's taken two years for them to finally listen to me.
'The GP sent Jessica to a paediatrician and we've been referred to two others since but she hasn't had any help.
'We've been told they can't help her until she is six and has reached the appropriate cognitive development.'
Cravings: Jessica's Pica makes her want to eat substances including sponge, sand and even rocks
Worry: Kelly Knight says doctors are unable to treat Jessica until she is six years old
WHAT IS PICA?
Pica is an eating disorder that is characterised by the desire to eat items with little or no nutritional value.
These can include stones, sand, paint and dirt.
It is most common in people with learning disabilities and during pregnancy.
It can cause a range of serious complications if the person is eating something that is poisonous or indigestible.
These include being poisoned by toxic ingredients and having a part of the body obstructed (which is often seen in people who eat hair).
It can also lead to excessive calorie intake, but also nutritional deprivation if the person eats a substance with no nutritional value instead of nutritious foods.
The person can also damage their teeth and be infected with parasites.
As well as craving inedible objects, Jessica refuses to eat food with sauce, and her diet is limited to plain sausages, cheese strings, rice pudding, bread, Weetabix and fish fingers without breadcrumbs.
But now she has an iron deficiency because she eats so much dairy, and suffes from stomach cramps which are so severe she was once left unable to stand.
Staff at Jessica's preschool told her parents she was licking her hands and placing them onto sand so it would stick and she could eat it from her fingers without others seeing.
Mrs Knight said: 'We would rather she ate the carpet because it's non-toxic. If we try and stop her we fear she will eat something worse with chemicals in it.
'Doctors said she likes it because she likes the texture. But it's always confused me because sponge, stones and sand all have completely different textures.
'If I ask her, "Did you play in the sand pit today?" when she comes home from preschool, she says, "Yes but nobody saw me mummy."
'She hides cement, stones and sand in her pocket and eats it discreetly because she knows it's not normal.
'She shuts her sister out of their shared bedroom sometimes and we said to her she can't because it's both their bedrooms. But she replied, "I don't want her to copy me because I don't want her to be poorly."'
Damage: Half of the carpet underlay in Jessica's bedroom has vanished because she has eaten it
Control: Jessica's parents have given her a purse full of bits of sponge to eat
As well as the Pica, doctors have suggested that Jessica could be autistic, as the two conditions are often seen together.
Dr Alison Sansome, from the Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, said: 'In general terms, Pica is a complex condition and treatment will be dictated by the specific circumstances in each case.
'Some treatments cannot start until children have reached certain cognitive development stages. Our priority in all cases is to ensure every child receives the best care possible.'
A spokesman for the Challenging Behaviour Foundation said that up to a quarter of people with learning disabilities had some Pica symptoms.
The condition 'can potentially be life threatening' if children choke on unfamiliar substances or suffer poisoning from toxic material, the charity added.