Infantile colic is an ill-defined condition which seems to consist primarily of pain associated with symptoms ranging in degree from general fussiness to paroxysms of agonized crying. The symptoms usually start after feeding and are worse late in the day. Besides the typical unhappiness, as exemplified by clenching the fists and flexing the legs, the infant often makes sucking movements and appears to be searching for food. Usually these infants have a great deal of gas, manifested by excessive belching, flatus, and rumbling. The passage of gas is occasionally followed by temporary relief, supporting the theory that distended loops of intestine from collected air causes colic. It is most common in the first born, usually starting at 2 to 4 weeks of age, and lasting through the third or fourth month.
It is difficult to say what percentage of infants have colic since a certain amount of fussiness is natural, and crying that may be considered normal in one household, might be regarded as intolerable in another. Certainly colic is not "the almost infallible occurrence" that Brenneman once described, although Wessel found that only 50 of 98 infants lie studied were considered contented babies. From my own experience in both private practice and clinic work, I have gained the impression that the incidence of colic is higher in the private group.
There is little agreement as to the cause of colic, but a basic immaturity of the intestinal tract, a constitutional predisposition to hypertonicity, hunger, improper feeding technique, allergy on a reaction to tenseness in the home, are commonly described as etiologic factors.
- Copyright © 1956 by the American Academy of Pediatrics