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Colic

Definition
Pain or discomfort in the abdomen leading to repeated episodes of excessive crying that cannot be explained. Crying ranges from fussiness to agonized screaming. Colic is not contagious.

Sex or Age Most Affected
Both sexes, but more common in boys. Colic affects infants up to 5 months old, and is most common in a first child.

Signs & Symptoms
Excessive crying with the following characteristics:

  • Crying bouts usually occur in late afternoon or evening.
  • Crying bouts usually begin at 2 to 4 weeks and last through 3 or 4 months.
  • The infant's abdomen may rumble, and the child may draw up the legs as if in pain.
  • No specific disease, such as an ear infection, hernia, allergy or urinary infection, can be discovered.

Causes
Unknown. Colic may be related to physical pain or emotional upset. Some likely possibilities include: hunger; insufficient sleep; milk that is too hot; overfeeding; food allergy; reactions to tension in the home; loneliness; or tiredness.

Prevention
Remove any causes that can be identified. No specific preventive measures.

Diagnostic Measures

  • Observation of the child during a cry.
  • Physical exam by a doctor.

Possible Complications
None expected.

Probable Outcome
All babies cry, and many have fussy periods. Crying is an important activity and means of communication. Colic is a distressing, but not dangerous, condition. The symptoms can sometimes be relieved. When they can't, the colic WILL disappear after the 4th or 5th month.

TREATMENT

General Measures

  • Be patient and tolerant. Since colic is not the parents' fault, do not blame yourself.
  • Don't feed the baby every time he cries. Look for a reason, such as: a gas bubble; cramped position; too much heat or cold; soiled diaper; open diaper pin; or a desire to be cuddled.

If the baby stops crying when picked up, the crying is not a result of hunger or gas. If the child continues to cry, offer a feed. If the crying stops then, it is due to hunger.

The symptoms of overfeeding can mimic gas pains. If the baby is still screaming in agony after an hour, gently insert an infant glycerine suppository into the baby's rectum as a last resort.

  • During an attack of gas, hold the baby securely, and gently massage the lower abdomen. Rocking may be soothing.
  • Offer the baby a pacifier.
  • Allow the baby to cry if you are certain everything is all right (not hungry, not soiled, no fever, no open pins) and you have done all you can.
  • Ask someone to take care of the baby to relieve you as often as possible.

Medication
Drugs are used only as a last resort when babies and parents are both exhausted. In that event, your doctor may prescribe antispasmodics. If so, carefully follow instructions on the label. Don't use any medicine, including non-prescription medicine, without telling your doctor. Even in prescription drugs do not use more frequently than advised.

Diet

  • Interrupt bottle feedings after every ounce and burp the baby. Interrupt breast feedings every 5 minutes.
  • Allow at least 20 minutes to feed the baby. Don't prop the baby for feedings.
  • Nipple holes should not be too large. A vigorous baby may require blind nipples in which you can make small, homemade nipple holes.

Contact Your Doctor

  • Baby's temperature rises to 101F (38.3C) or higher.
  • You fear that you are about to lose emotional control.
  • Baby is taking a prescription drug, and new, unexplained symptoms develop.