Colic In Infants

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Colic is a condition that causes intense crying,irritability, andintermittent abdominal painin infants for no apparent reason.

What is going on in the body?

Infants with colic typically have periods during the day or nightduring which they cry and fuss intensely for no obvious reason. These periodsoften occur at the same time each day. Normal comfort measures, such asrocking or feeding, seem to be of no help. The fussing may persist for severalhours despite the best efforts of the parents. It may then end abruptly,with the baby falling asleep. In most cases, the fussy time is in the evening andlasts for several hours.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The cause of colic is unknown, and it does not appear to be broughton by anything in the baby’s environment. Babies with colic are quite sensitiveto changes in their environment and are easily set off by these changes. They respondintensely. Once set off, theydo not seem to be able to quiet themselves or to be quieted by others.

Colic usually begins between 2 and 4 weeks of age. It reaches itsmaximum intensity at about 8 to 12 weeks of age. Colic usually resolvesby 4 months of age, although it can persist for several months longer. Roughly20% of infants will exhibit symptoms of colic. It is seen more often in boys thanin girls and more often in first-born children than in later ones.

The following factors are believed to increase an infant’s risk for colic:

  • feeding too quickly
  • irritating foods
  • teething
  • upper respiratory infections,such as the common cold
  • upsetting changes in the baby’s environment
  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

    Intense, prolonged crying is the principal symptom of colic. Infantswith colic can also be gassy and have swollen bellies because of all the air theyswallow while crying.

    Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    Colic is what is called a diagnosis of exclusion. This means that,before making this diagnosis, a reasonable effort must be made to rule out othercauses for an infant’s fussiness or crying. Parents should discuss the situationwith the baby’s healthcare provider. The infant should be taken to the office foran examination. Despite the crying and fussiness, infants with colic usually feed,urinate, eliminate, and gain weight normally.

    If other symptoms occur, more serious conditions may be the causeof the crying. For example, vomiting, bloody stools, or coughing suggestunderlying medical problems.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    Most of the time, the cause of the baby’s colic cannot be determined,and it can’t be prevented. Properfeeding techniquesand appropriate dietcan be helpful.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    Colic does not have any adverse, long-term effects. Colicky infantscan cause high levels of stressin their parents. This can place the infant at risk of beingabused by a parentor other caregiver. This is more likely if the caregiver is socially isolated and haslittle help in dealing with the baby’s crying.

    What are the risks to others?

    Colic is not contagious and poses no risk to others.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    Since colic has been part of the human condition for a long time,many treatments have become part of folklore. There is no treatment that hasbeen scientifically proven to be effective in a large number of infants. Generallyspeaking, medicines are not advised and are not very useful for treating colic.Once they are sure that the problem is colic and not something more serious,parents should trust that the baby is healthy and that things will get better withtime.

    Colicky infants are often very sensitive to their environment. It mayhelp to keep the baby’s environment as quiet and soothing as possible. Avoidsudden or loud noises. Hold the baby in a soothing manner, withoutvigorous jostling or bouncing. Comfort the baby by holding or rocking him or herwhile wrapped in secure swaddling in a soft blanket. Soft background musicmay help. The baby may also respond to swinging in a baby swing or going for aride in a stroller.

    Some infants can have abdominal pain from certain proteins incow’s milk.Colicky infants who are on a formula made from cow’s milk may benefit from adifferent kind of formula. Options should be discussed with the healthcare provider.

    It is important for parents to develop a support system. This systemshould provide some brief periods in which the parents can be away from the baby.A trusted, experienced relative or neighbor can often be on call to fill in for a fewhours when the parent needs a break. This break can help preventchild abuse.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    The comfort measures described have no adverse side effects.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    Once colic has gone away, no further treatment is needed.

    How is the condition monitored?

    Parents provide most of the monitoring at home. The infant withcolic will gradually get better once he or she is about 3 months old. The colicshould end by the age of 4 to 5 months. The healthcare provider should becontacted if the colic seems to be getting worse instead of better. Any new orworsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

    Article type: xmedgeneral