Firstly lets start with a definition of colic, it is a condition in which an otherwise healthy baby cries or displays symptoms of distress. Epidemiology suggests that various foods such as chocolate, onions, the dreaded broccoli and cabbage amongst other foods.
The crying often increases during a specific period of the day, particularly the early evening possibly due to most people eating the largest meal to late in the day when the digestive system is at its weakest (yours and the babies).
Like most things in life we prefer to find a pharmaceutical "cure" rather than track down the problem and eliminate it. Nowadays Infacol is king in the colic business, the oral suspension contains the active ingredient simeticone, which is a type of medicine called an 'anti-foaming agent. Like many medicines sold to the unsuspecting public it is touted as safe with no risk. I've posted in the past about the dodgy ingredients that have a number of side effects individually have numerous side effects yet according to the manufacturers have none when they are mixed ready to be used on children.
Should we trust the pharmaceutical companies that sell us products? Ideally no, one should look beyond masking the symptoms and try investigating the problems. One of my issues with drug companies is that they frequently claim things are safe, then bring out a new version when the old one racks up too many complaints (try investigating vaccinations). Just because something is claimed to be "safe" now, does not mean it will be in 5 years time. Think back, smoking was once sold as an asthma treatment.
Back in Victorian times (my favourite era) Godfrey Cordial was a patent medicine (don't want people copying the magic do we) given to children suffering colic. The recipe was sassafras, opium, brandy/rectified spirit, caraway seed, and treacle. There were various different preparations taking the Godfrey name.
Often referred to as "quietness" as they used it to drug their children into sleeping through the night was an acceptable way to avoid missing work. Godfrey's mixture of morphine and treacle had a tendency to separate after time, with the morphine sinking to the bottom. Sold out of large jugs so the purchaser of the final few doses from the jug invariably got straight morphine.
Eventually medical officers became convinced that a major causes of infant mortality was the practice of children being dosed on narcotics such as opium. Local to me in Nottingham a druggist (wouldn't it be better if they were still called that nowadays), sold four hundred gallons of laudanum annually. In the Fenlands (Eastern UK) 'poppy tea' containing opium was popular and doctors reported how 'infants were wasted from it'.
As it still tends to nowadays opium killed far more through starvation than directly through overdose. Dr. Greenhow, investigating for the Privy Council, noted how children 'kept in a state of continued narcotism will be thereby disinclined for food, and be but imperfectly nourished.' Marasmus, or inanition, and death from severe malnutrition would result, but the coroner was likely to record the death as 'debility from birth,' or 'lack of breast milk,' or simply 'starvation.'
Will Infacol become the new Godfrey Cordial that some blogger is posting about in a few centuries? Probably not but their is a lesson to be learned, do not trust that a chemical concoction is safe and always investigate other possibilities. And be aware that any possible problems will no doubt be linked to anything but the drug.
Check the video below for a little experiment that shows just how harsh Infacol may be for little ones insides.
Wohl, Anthony S. Endangered Lives: Public Health in Victorian Britain. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1983. pp. 34-35.