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Thursday 20th June 2019

No evidence that gripe water works

21st June 2011

Baby colic affects around one in five babies, making them cry, seemingly non-stop.


The US' National Institutes of Health says that typically, babies troubled by colic can cry for at least three hours a day, three days a week, and be inconsolable.

Colic crying can start at regular times, often in the evening, but no-one knows what causes it.

Colicky babies often have wind and act as if they have intense pain in their intestinal tract, drawing up their legs and clenching their fists.

Colic makes life very hard for babies and those who care for them, and many parents and carers give gripe water in the hope of winning some relief.

Others dose their babies with herbal tonics, many of which are available over the counter in pharmacies and health food outlets.

According to a study published this month in the journal Paediatrics, gripe water is the most popular choice among herbal remedies, which are given to 9% of babies in their first year.

Study co-author Edzard Ernst said the ingredients in most gripe waters should be safe for babies.

But he said the treatments were still unproven, and parents used them out of desperation.

Typical gripe water preparations contain water, sodium bicarbonate, and herbal extracts like ginger and fennel, as well as fructose.

The directions often suggest dosing the baby as many as six times a day with a dropper, or added to feeds.

While many parents swear by gripe water, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that it actually works, although it has been found to be safe for babies.

Another Paediatrics article suggests that fennel extract and some herbal teas could relieve colic symptoms, but studies carried out so far have been unconvincing, experts say.

So far, no-one has tested the effectiveness of the various gripe waters on the market, either.

Some experts recommend cutting dairy out of a colicky baby's diet, which can be helpful.

However, most colicky babies grow out of the pains by around three months, so the problem could end up solving itself in time.

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