Daughter Licking Hands and Putting Fingers in Her Mouth

Updated on January 30, 2011
C.W. asks from Grand Prairie, TX
6 answers

My daughter is 10 years old!!! What in the world is going on!? She licks her hands and is constantly putting her fingers in her mouth. I didn't have this problem when she was a baby! She never really stuck things in her mouth that didn't belong there. I ask her why and she says they are salty. Obviously from being a little sweaty or whatever. But why? Is she deficient in something? I don't know if this is disciplinary or medical or psychological? Please, someone give me something to work with here! It doesn't make any sense.

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answers from Washington DC on

She may have overactive sweat glands that make her palms really damp and uncomfortable.

She may be reacting to stress with this as an unthinking way of comforting herself, like a younger kid would automatically suck a thumb for comfort (have there been changes at home, changes at school, issues with friends?)

She may feel a compulsion to do this repetitive action; does she do other things that seem repetitive or like little rituals she needs to do before moving on to other things?

She may have a mineral deficiency that she's totally unaware of, of course, and having discovered that the saltiness of the sweat seems satisfying, she's doing this licking, when she may really need something else that's dietary.

With her right now, I wouldn't freak out, yell or discipline her; I wouldn't even mention it to her until after you talk to her pediatrician, which I'd do right away. This could be a temporary tic or it could be an indicator of the kinds of things above, all of which can be handled medically. Of course it's a worrying habit, with flu season upon us and who knows what other germs running around school, but if you punish her for it or shout at her, that may backfire and make her lick more, for comfort. So I'd definitely talk to the doctor soon and maybe to the school counselor (if you have a well-trained and trusted counselor). And keep the lines of communication with her open; if you're gentle and positive with her, she's likelier to tell you about why she feels she needs to do this.

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answers from Dallas on

I was an athlete when I was younger, so I was always salty. It tasted good at the time, probably because I was always losing so much salt through sweat.

That being said, maybe she's doing it because she knows it bothers you. I did that too. =) Kids are so good at that.


answers from Dallas on

An interesting question that led me to do some brief research online.

Do her fingers taste salty to you or just to her. If just her, that narrows it down.

Some conditions cause you to have salty skin and some cause your tongue or olfactory senses to "taste" salt.

Then, call your pediatrician to see what it is. Too many suggestions I found on the internet to help you narrow it down. They go from mild dehydration to too many sodas to cancer, on and on and on. Check it out.

That's not even addressing yet whether or not this is some compulsive action on top of the salty taste.



answers from Charlotte on

If the ped can't help with this, you might ask for an endocrinologist in case she's missing something in her chemical makeup.

I wouldn't punish her for it - if it's not a physical malady it might be a tic of some sort.

Best to you,


answers from Provo on

When I was ten I realized that my skin had a salty type taste to it. I took showers daily so it wasn't that I was sweaty. I would occasionally suck on my hands. I kind of liked the taste. Kind of like tears. I know gross now, but back then it was good.



answers from Los Angeles on

The only thing I can think of is a clear nail polish that has an awful taste so it discourages nail biting, etc. It's called Hoof and it says 'stop the bite' on the bottle. My daughter is ten and ever since a couple years ago she has been biting her nails or skin around them and putting fingers in her mouth and it drives me nuts! The nail polish helps whenever I put it on but of course if it's off, that nasty habit will start again, good luck!

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