Posted by Kelly M on October 18, 2003 at 06:29:32:
In Reply to: gas posted by Lyndsay on October 17, 2003 at 09:57:54:
Colic is persistent, unexplained crying in a healthy baby between two weeks and five months of age.
Colic, which is not a disease, affects 10-20% of all infants. It is more common in boys than in girls and most common in a family's first child. Symptoms of colic usually appear when a baby is 14-21 days old, reach a crescendo at the age of three months, and disappear within the next eight weeks. Episodes occur frequently but intermittently and usually begin with prolonged periods of crying in the late afternoon or evening. They can last for just a few minutes or continue for several hours. Some babies who have colic are simply fussy. Others cry so hard that their faces turn red, then pale.
Causes and symptoms
No one knows what causes colic. The condition may be the result of swallowing large amounts of air, which becomes trapped in the digestive tract and causes bloating and severe abdominal pain.
Other possible causes of colic include:
digestive tract immaturity
hunger or overfeeding
lack of sleep
overheated milk or formula
overstimulation resulting from noise, light, or activity
During a colicky episode, babies' bellies often look swollen, feel hard, and make a rumbling sound. Crying intensifies, tapers off, then gets louder. Many babies grow rigid, clench their fists, curl their toes, and draw their legs toward their body. A burp or a bowel movement can end an attack. Most babies who have colic don't seem to be in pain between attacks.
Pediatricians and family physicians suspect colic in an infant who:
has cried loudly for at least three hours a day at least three times a week for three weeks or longer
is not hungry but cries for several hours between dinnertime and midnight
demonstrates the clenched fists, rigidity, and other physical traits associated with colic
The baby's medical history and a parent's description of eating, sleeping, and crying patterns are used to confirm a diagnosis of colic. Physical examination and laboratory tests are used to rule out infection, intestinal blockage, and other conditions that can cause abdominal pain and other colic-like symptoms.
Medications do not cure colic. Doctors sometimes recommend simethicone (Mylicon Drops) to relieve gas pain, but generally advise parents to take a practical approach to the problem.
Gently massaging the baby's back can release a trapped gas bubble, and holding the baby in a sitting position can help prevent air from being swallowed during feedings. Bottle-fed babies can swallow air if nipple holes are either too large or too small.
Nipple-hole size can be checked by filling a bottle with cold formula, turning it upside down, and counting the number of drops released when it is shaken or squeezed. A nipple hole that is the right size will release about one drop of formula every second.
Babies should not be fed every time they cry, but feeding and burping a baby more often may alleviate symptoms of colic. A bottle-fed baby should be burped after every ounce, and a baby who is breastfeeding should be burped every five minutes.
When cow's milk is the source of the symptoms, bottle-fed babies should be switched to a soy milk hydrolyzed protein formula. A woman whose baby is breastfeeding should eliminate dairy products from her diet for seven days, then gradually reintroduce them unless the baby's symptoms reappear.
Since intolerance to foods other than cow's milk may also lead to symptoms of colic, breastfeeding women may also relieve their babies' colic by eliminating from their diet:
broccoli and other vegetables belonging to the cabbage family from their diet
Rocking a baby in a quiet, darkened room can prevent overstimulation, and a baby usually calms down when cuddled in a warm, soft blanket.
Colicky babies cry less when they are soothed by the motion of a wind-up swing, a car ride, or being carried in a parent's arms. Pacifiers can soothe babies who are upset, but a pacifier should never be attached to a string.
A doctor should be notified if a baby who has been diagnosed with colic:
develops a rectal fever higher than 101°F (38.3°C)
cries for more than four hours
has diarrhea or stools that are black or bloody
eats less than normal
Applying gentle pressure to the webbed area between the thumb and index finger of either hand can calm a crying child. So can gently massaging the area directly above the child's navel and the corresponding spot on the spine. Applying warm compresses or holding your hand firmly over the child's abdomen can relieve cramping.
Teas made with chamomile (Matricaria recutita), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), peppermint (Mentha piperita), or dill (Anethum graveolens) can lessen bowel inflammation and reduce gas. A homeopathic combination called "colic" may be effective, and constitutional homeopathic treatment can help strenthen the child's entire constitution.
Colic is distressing, but it is not dangerous. Symptoms almost always disappear before a child is six months old.
Many doctors believe that colic cannot be prevented. Some alternative practitioners, however, feel that colic can be prevented by an awareness of food intolerances and their impact.
For Your Information
Taylor, Robert, ed. Family Medicine Principles and Practice. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1994.
American Academy of Family Physicians. 8880 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO 64114. (816) 333-9700. http://www.aafp.org
American Academy of Pediatrics. 141 Northwest Point Boulevard, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098. (847) 434-4000. http://www.aap.org
"Colic." University of Michigan Health System Page. 7 May 1998http://www.mcare.org/healthtips
"Colic." WebMD Health. 7 May 1998 http://my.webmd.com
"Colic." YourHealth.com Page. 8 May 1998 http://www.yourhealth.com>
Source: Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, Published December, 2002 by the Gale Group
The Essay Author is Maureen Haggerty.