Definition of Colic and crying
Almost all babies go through a fussy period. When crying lasts for longer than about three hours a day and is not caused by a medical problem (such as a hernia or infection), it is called colic. This phenomenon occurs in almost all babies. The only thing that differs is the degree.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Colic usually strikes toward the end of a long day, when your baby is just about at the age when your sleep deprivation has really begun to set in. Your baby stops being the quiet, peaceful, miracle baby and begins screaming every evening. It is no wonder that parents can become frustrated, discouraged, and depressed.
Colic frequently, but not always, begins at about the same time every day. For most infants the most intense fussiness is in the evening. The attack often begins suddenly. The legs may be drawn up and the belly distended. The hands may be clenched. The episode may last for minutes or hours. It often winds down when the baby is exhausted, or when gas or stool is passed.
Signs and tests
Colic is usually diagnosed by the parent’s description of the crying. A careful physical exam is wise to be sure the baby does not have a hernia, , a hair tourniquet, a hair in the eye, or another medical problem that needs attention. If the diagnosis isn’t clear, further testing may be needed.
Helping a child with colic is primarily a matter of experimentation and observation. If you can identify and eliminate a trigger for the colic, that is best. Even if you can’t, learn which measures most comfort your baby.
Colic is a benign condition that the baby usually outgrows at three to four months of age.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/2/2009