Colic is a condition that causes intense crying, irritability, and intermittent abdominal pain in infants for no apparent reason.
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Normal comfort measures, such as rocking or feeding, seem to be of no help. The fussing may persist for several hours (usually no more than three hours) 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 and lasts for several hours.
Intense, prolonged crying is the principal symptom of colic. Infants with colic can also be gassy and have swollen bellies because of all the air they swallow while crying.
If there is blood in the stool or vomiting—especially bile—colic is not the likely diagnosis. Passing stool which looks like red-current jelly means that a serious condition such as intussusception (bowel spasms due to the bowel telescoping on itself) must be excluded
The cause of colic is unknown, and it does not appear to be brought on by anything in the baby's environment. Babies with colic are quite sensitive to changes in their environment and are easily set off by these changes. They respond intensely. Once set off, they do 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 its maximum intensity at about 8 to 12 weeks of age. Colic usually resolves by 4 months of age, although it can persist for several months longer. Roughly 20% of infants will exhibit symptoms of colic. It is seen more often in boys than in 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 quicklyirritating foodsteethingupper respiratory infections, such as the common coldupsetting changes in the baby's environment
Most of the time, the cause of the baby's colic cannot be determined, and it can't be prevented. Proper feeding techniques and appropriate diet can be helpful.
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 other causes for an infant's fussiness or crying.
Parents should discuss the situation with the baby's healthcare professional. The infant should be taken to the office for an 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 cause of the crying. For example, vomiting, bloody stools, or coughing suggest underlying medical problems.
Colic does not have any adverse, long-term effects. Colicky infants can cause high levels of stress in their parents. This can place the infant at risk of being abused by a parent or other caregiver. This is more likely if the caregiver is socially isolated and has little help in dealing with the baby's crying.
Colic is not contagious and poses no risk to others.
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 has been scientifically proven to be effective in a large number of infants.
Generally speaking, 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 with time.
Colicky infants are often very sensitive to their environment. It may help to keep the baby's environment as quiet and soothing as possible. Avoid sudden or loud noises. Hold the baby in a soothing manner, without vigorous jostling or bouncing.
Comfort the baby by holding or rocking him or her while wrapped in secure swaddling in a soft blanket. Soft background music may help. The baby may also respond to swinging in a baby swing or going for a ride in a stroller.
Some infants can have abdominal pain from certain proteins in cow's milk. Colicky infants who are on a formula made from cow's milk may benefit from a different kind of formula. Options should be discussed with the healthcare professional.
It is important for parents to develop a support system. This system should 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 few hours when the parent needs a break. This break can help prevent child abuse.
The comfort measures described have no adverse side effects.
Once colic has gone away, no further treatment is needed.
Parents provide most of the monitoring at home. The infant with colic will gradually get better once he or she is about 3 months old. The colic should end by the age of 4 to 5 months.
The healthcare professional should be contacted if the colic seems to be getting worse instead of better. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.