Home Remedies to Help Stop Nail-Biting in Children

This habit is difficult to overcome. However, today we'll offer you a series of home remedies to stop nail-biting in children.
Home Remedies to Help Stop Nail-Biting in Children

Last update: 02 August, 2022

Onychophagia is the habit of biting one’s nails and can occur in both children and adults. The characteristic of this situation is that it’s done compulsively, without realizing it, and it’s hard to stop nail-biting in children.

This habit usually produces aesthetic effects in those who suffer from it, as the appearance and stiffness of the nails are considerably affected. Fortunately, there are multiple home remedies that can help your child stop biting their nails. Keep reading find out what they are.

The cause

If your child bites their nails, it’s best to try to find out under what circumstances they do it, as it’s common for this habit to be exacerbated in very demanding situations that produce anxiety and stress, according to studies. So, to the extent that you can, pinpoint what drives your child to do this so that you can help them more effectively.

It’s also important that you try to determine when the habit began to appear. That is, if there was an important event that produced it, this would be very useful in order to address the behavior and see what real possibilities there are to avoid this stressful situation.

Sometimes, we can’t find an event as such, but we’re in the presence of a child with an anxious personality style who perceives the demands of the environment as more stressful than others.

In all cases, your child needs support in learning to manage stress and anxiety, the manifestation of which is nail-biting. Seen this way, onychophagia itself isn’t the problem, but a manifestation of an emotional problem.

A boy biting his nails.

Don’t make them feel worse

We’ve already said that children often bite their nails when they’re in situations that are highly difficult for them to handle. Other children, instead of doing this, pull out strands of hair, have sleep disturbances, or begin to behave like younger children. In short, there are a variety of ways in which children let us know that they’re going through a difficult time.

In such circumstances, more than at any other time, they need the strength, protection, and security that their parents offer them. So don’t reprimand them in public. Remember that most of the time, they don’t have voluntary control over the act of biting their nails. It’s something they do without realizing it and that serves as an escape valve to release tension.

Home remedies to stop nail-biting in children

Home remedies have been controversially used to help kick this bad habit in people. For this reason, they’ll surely give you some advice that you should evaluate sensibly to guarantee that you won’t violate the dignity of your children.

  1. Try painting their nails and make this moment a time of complicity and pampering between you both. Encourage them to keep their hands nice. You can buy them some rings and bracelets, too.
  2. Some people recommend running aloe vera gel on your child’s fingers, thanks to its healing effects. Do it with respect, explain to them that it’s a medicine that will help heal their bitten fingers. This brings an additional “advantage” because the bitter taste of aloe vera will be unpleasant and will prevent them from biting their nails. Don’t fall into the temptation of spreading spicy or substances that mistreat their fingers and your self-esteem even more.
  3. Help them keep some “chew” substitutes on hand. These can be things like sugar-free gum, carrot or celery sticks, apple squares, or any other healthy, easy-to-grab food.
  4. Teach them relaxation techniques that they can use in situations where they begin to tense up. Give them strategies for apologizing and stepping back for about two minutes and breathing. A very useful idea is the use of a stress ball, which your little one can squeeze when they feel upset.
  5. There are many bitter-tasting glazes that help prevent this bad habit in children. One of the homemade alternatives to this option is to place a clove of garlic in your nail polish. In addition to offering a bitter taste, garlic contains properties capable of strengthening the nail bed.
  6. Another home remedy to help your child not to bite their nails is to get a manicure frequently. Taking care of their hands will allow the nails to grow healthy while keeping their nails short enough to prevent them from biting them.
  7. Drinking relaxing teas can also help your child with this problem. While it won’t directly prevent you from biting your nails, it will help you deal with anxiety and stress at a given time. Chamomile tea and lavender tea are the preferred options.
  8. Essential oils with a bitter taste are also very useful. Applying a little tea tree oil or neem oil on the nails every day will help with the problem. In addition, tea tree oil has antibacterial properties, according to studies, so it helps prevent the onset of infections.
  9. The use of gloves in little ones is also useful, as it will create a physical barrier between them and their nails.
A family attending therapy.

Problems associated with nail-biting in children

In addition to representing an aesthetic problem and causing shame in children who suffer from it, nail-biting in children can trigger various health problems. Many of these problems are related to the mouth and teeth, among which the following stand out:

Seek specialized help

Remember that onychophagia is the expression of an emotional situation that’s difficult to handle. It may involve changes in the family routine, such as the birth of a little brother, a move, the death of a close relative or a pet, etc. But it can also come from more prolonged situations such as a tense relationship between parents at home, difficulties adapting to school, or problems with caregivers.

You must be attentive to everything and avoid exposing your little ones to such situations until they’ve achieved emotional strength. Don’t hesitate to seek the support of a child psychologist to help you discover the causes and to support your child in developing skills that allow them to face the various challenges that life will provide.

While the intervention is taking effect, you can help a little with these simple home remedies to stop nail-biting in children. We wish you luck!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Sani G, Gualtieri I, Paolini M, Bonanni L, Spinazzola E et al. Drug Treatment of Trichotillomania (Hair-Pulling Disorder), Excoriation (Skin-picking) Disorder, and Nail-biting (Onychophagia). Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019;17(8):775-786.
  • Halteh P, Scher RK, Lipner SR. Onychophagia: A nail-biting conundrum for physicians. J Dermatolog Treat. 2017 Mar;28(2):166-172.
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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.