He drinks a lot of milk, but doesn't really have a healthy diet. He eats just what there is to eat. So there will be some days when he eats a cheeseburger or toast, but he rarely (almost never eats vegetables and seldom eats fruits). He doesn't at all eat baby food and has never eaten baby food. He has really bad asthma and is always congested or always has a runny nose or cough. Hilo, HI
A. It sounds like he may have pica (PI-kuh), which is a disorder in which children crave or eat non-food substances, like rocks, clay, hair, etc. Other children with pica eat paper, cardboard, or even the stuffing from furniture.
While it isn't known what causes pica, these children may have some kind of nutritional deficiency, especially a deficiency of iron or zinc. Since he drinks a lot of milk and doesn't have a 'healthy diet,' he may very well also be suffering from iron deficiency anemia.
In addition to providing him with a safe environment, so that there aren't any screws or bolts for him to pick up and swallow, he should see his Pediatrician for an evaluation. Along with a physical exam, this evaluation will likely include a complete blood count to see if he is indeed anemic. If you think that he may have swallowed some of the things that he puts in his mouth, a chest and abdominal x-ray may also be a good idea.
Since toddlers do tend to normally put things in their mouth, if everything is normal in his evaluation with his Pediatrician and he doesn't do it all of the time, then it may just be a habit that he will outgrow. In an older child, like over 3 or 4 years, this behavior would clearly be identified as pica, but it is harder to make a diagnosis in a toddler. It is also more likely to be a problem if he is very aggressive into continuing to want to eat these things as you try to distract him away from them or offer him real food to eat instead.
He likely also needs an evaluation to see if he needs additional medications to control his asthma and to see if he also has uncontrolled allergies since you mention that he always has a runny nose or cough.