September 14th, 2011 by Hasham
What are colic symptoms and signs in babies?
Infantile colic has been around for a long time. In 1954, Dr. Morris Wessel, a well-known New Haven pediatrician, defined an infant with colic as “one who, otherwise healthy and well-fed, had paroxysms of irritability, fussing, or crying lasting for a total of three hours a day and occurring on more than three days in any one week for a period of three weeks.” It is also important to remember that not all fussy babies suffer from colic. Most infants normally cry two to three hours per day, but this is usually spread out during the 24-hour period.
The crying or fussing most frequently begins suddenly and often after a feeding. The cry is loud and continuous, and the spells last from one to four hours. The baby’s face often gets flushed or red. The belly is sometimes distended or prominent, the legs alternating between flexed and extended straight out; the feet are often cold and the hands clenched. The episodes, while they can occur at any time of the day or night, typically begin in the late afternoon or early evening, just when parents or caregivers are most exhausted. There are some babies who are more prone to infantile colic than others. It is generally believed that if one or both parents were colicky, their baby is more at risk. Infantile colic typically begins at about 2 to 3 weeks of age, reaches its peak at 2 months, begins to subside by 3 months, and is gone by 3 ½ to 4 months of age. But the frustrating fact remains that although one in four babies has colic and much research has been done on the topic, there is no one proven cause of colic. In some studies, no discernable cause was found for one-quarter of those babies who suffered from colicky episodes. This is very frustrating for most parents.
It is certainly known that amongst all colicky babies, there are factors that may worsen the colic symptoms:
Colic is a common condition in babies. As many as one in five babies have colic in the first few months of life. Colic affects boys and girls, and babies who are breastfed and those who are bottle-fed equally.
It’s not known what causes colic, but it’s usually harmless and lasts for a few months before getting better on its own. However, it can be very upsetting for parents and carers.
Symptoms of colic
Colic usually starts when your baby is a few weeks old and the symptoms last for a few months. Most babies ‘grow out of it’ by the age of three or four months, or six months at the latest.
Your baby may cry for several hours a day and you might find it hard to soothe or comfort him or her. A baby with colic can cry at any time of the day, but you may find that it’s worse in the late afternoon or evening. Although colic isn’t thought to be painful for your baby, he or she may look uncomfortable. Your baby may:
* arch his or her back
* draw up the legs to his or her abdomen (tummy)
* become stiff
* pass wind
* clench his or her fists
If your baby has colic, he or she should still feed well and gain weight. If your baby doesn’t do this, see your health visitor or GP.
You may find the symptoms of colic very stressful to manage, especially if it’s your first child. It can be difficult to cope with the constant crying, or to comfort your baby, so it’s important to look after yourself, get support and to take a break if things get on top of you.
Causes of colic
The exact reasons why your baby may develop colic aren’t fully understood at present. However, there are a number of possible causes. The main ones are listed below.
* If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby may be more likely to get colic.
* Your baby may have painful indigestion or wind.
* Your baby may be sensitive to either lactose in breast milk or cows’ milk protein in formula milk. This can cause intolerance while your baby’s digestive system is developing during the first few months of life.
* Your baby may be more sensitive than other babies. This can mean that he or she is more sensitive to their environment or to being over-stimulated.
Diagnosis of colic
If you’re worried about your baby’s crying, get advice from your GP or health visitor to make sure there isn’t a more serious health problem.
Before you see your GP, think about anything else that may be causing your baby to cry. Some of the main causes of crying are listed below.
* Wind. If you’re bottle-feeding your baby, sit him or her upright when you feed him or her. This cuts down the amount of air your baby takes in during feeds and may help to prevent wind. Your health visitor will be able to show you how to do this. Burping your baby will also help to get rid of wind.
* Hunger or thirst. Talk to your health visitor about whether your baby is feeding enough.
* Temperature. Check whether your baby is too hot or too cold. Keep the room temperature at 18°C if possible.
* Itchiness. Itchy clothes, labels or eczema can irritate your baby.
* Pain, such as nappy rash.
If your baby continues to cry, see your GP or health visitor. He or she will examine your baby and ask you about your baby’s behaviour. This will help to rule out other illnesses or causes of crying.
Doctors usually make a diagnosis of colic if your baby cries for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for a period of more than three weeks.
Treatment of colic
There is no single treatment for colic that works for every baby. Different babies are comforted in different ways, and you may need to try a few methods to see what works best. In time, colic will stop and your baby’s crying will get better after a few months.
You may find the following techniques helpful to soothe your baby.
* Hold your baby and walk or dance around with him or her. Babies need lots of contact and like the movement.
* Carry your baby in a front sling or backpack.
* Try using a baby swing.
* Sing softly, play music and talk to your baby.
* You may want to change your baby’s position by propping him or her up, so he or she can look around more.
* Try to soothe your baby with continuous noise or vibrations, for example the noise from a vacuum cleaner or washing machine, or from running water.
* Take your baby for a drive in the car or a walk in the buggy.
* Give your baby a dummy to suck on.
* Bathe your baby – the warm water may be comforting.
Your GP or health visitor may also suggest changing your diet or your baby’s diet. This may help if your baby is sensitive to lactose or to cows’ milk protein.
If you’re breastfeeding your baby, try cutting out caffeinated drinks or cows’ milk and dairy foods for a week to see whether your baby’s symptoms get better.
If you’re bottle-feeding your baby, your GP or health visitor may suggest changing the size of the hole in the teat, as too small a teat can cause your baby to swallow air. Your GP or health visitor may also recommend changing to a different formula, called a hypoallergenic formula, for one week. If your baby’s symptoms don’t get better, you can go back to your usual formula milk.
You can also try adding lactase drops to milk during feeds. Lactase breaks down lactose and may help to improve your baby’s symptoms. You can add lactase drops to bottle feeds of formula or breast milk. If you’re breastfeeding, add the drops to a small amount of expressed milk and give it to your baby using a sterilised teaspoon. Try this for one week to see if the symptoms get better. You can buy lactase from a pharmacy. Always read the patient information leaflet and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
Don’t cut out any foods from your diet without speaking to your GP or health visitor first.
A medicine called simeticone may help to improve the symptoms of colic, but doctors don’t know how well it works. Simeticone is given as a liquid, which you add to milk. It’s used to relieve trapped wind.
Try simeticone for one week to see if there is any improvement in your baby’s symptoms.
Some people believe that chiropractic spinal manipulation therapy or cranial osteopathy can help to relieve the symptoms of colic. However, there is little evidence that these treatments work.
Aromatherapy and abdominal massage are also used as treatments for colic. However, there is also little evidence that these treatments work. Always ask the advice of a qualified practitioner as some aromatherapy, massage oils and complementary therapies can be harmful to babies.
The outlook for colic is very good. If your baby has colic, they may appear to be in distress. However, the condition is not harmful, and your baby will continue to feed and gain weight normally. There is no evidence to suggest that colic has any long-term adverse effects on your baby’s health.
There is currently no cure for colic, so treatment usually involves using self-care techniques, such as bathing your baby in a warm bath to help soothe them. A small number of babies may also benefit from changes to their diet, such as adding lactase drops to breast milk or bottle milk. Lactase is a type of enzyme (proteins that cause chemical reactions to occur).
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