Sep 6, 2013
His finger nails were absent and I thought he had kept short nails. "He bites his nails," the mum said.
"Why do you bite your nails?" I asked this slim sun-tanned boy who studied in Primary Two.
"I don't know," he replied. "Could be boredom."
"Is he the only child?" I ask mum.
"Have you consulted a child development specialist?" I asked.
"No. He had earlier bitten his nails in kindergarten but stopped later."
"How did you stop it?" I asked.
"By applying some nail paint so that he will not bite his nails."
"We do have such medication for puppies that suck their paws," I replied.
"Of course, the teachers kept a close eye on him. But now he is big and so I don't apply the medication on his fingers now."
"Is there a big bully in your class?" I asked this boy who was able to converse like an adult.
"A boy who kicks you?" I asked.
"There is one. He will suddenly kick me from behind."
"Why don't you run away?" Mum asked.
"I don't run away because I don't know when he is going to kick me."
"What's his name?" I asked.
"Roy," the boy said. "Sometimes he is kind."
"A boy with two personalities? Kindness and cruelty towards you unexpectedly."
"Yes," he replied.
"Did you tell your teacher or your Principal about him?"
"No," he said.
"Where do you sit inside the class room? In front or at the back?"
"I sit at the back as I am quite tall," the boy said.."I will block the view if I sit in front."
"Does Roy sit at the back?" I asked.
"Yes, far back, far far back as he is noisy."
Is this bully stressing this gentle boy who learns taekwondo and has a yellow belt.
"Why don't you use taekwondo when he kicks you?" I asked.
"Taekwondo is for self-defence," he said.
"Are you home alone after school?" I asked since his father works overseas and his mum has to work too.
"Yes," he said.
Perhaps that is the reason he bites his nails. Being home alone and bored. Perhaps a dog or cat will be his companion.
"Dogs are messy," the mum said.
"How about a cat? A cat is clean and goes to her litter box to pee and poop." I said.
"Not at this time," mum said.
He has a hamster that he brought down for treatment today. The right elbow was itchy and red and hairless. So he did not want the skin problem to spread all over the body.
Is there a solution to stop nail biting? I saw a grown up doctor, a general practitioner with all his finger nails gone and the tissues abnormally lumpy. I could not figure why but this could be a case of nail biting from young in retrospective analysis.
Many dogs in Singapore bites their paws. All 4 paws. Some develop interdigital cysts. Why? Could there be mental or social reasons? Boredom? Home alone. Mites? Allergies? It is hard to say but it is quite a common situation. As for nail-biting boys, I will not know the incidence as I am a vet. Something must be done to stop this boy from biting his nails but what is the solution? I did advise the mum to ask the teacher to seat the boy in front at the corner so that he would not block the others and be away from Roy.
"Nail biting becomes pleasureable with time," I said to the mum. "It is important you consult the child behaviour specialist."
Will mum follow up? I doubt it and so the nail biting will continue to adulthood. Just like stool-eating puppies carrying on the habit to adulthood, not because they.