About Colic

Colic is a condition feared by parents and frequently encountered by pharmacy staff, who are often the first port-of-call for distressed families seeking advice.

Screaming, red-faced babies, incessant crying and clenched fists – along with the exhausted and fraught faces of the parents going through the trauma of looking after a colicky baby – it’s a condition we are all familiar with.



Although colic is common[1] – the condition leads one in six families (17%) with children to consult a health professional[2] – and usually gets better on its own by the age of six months[1], it can be a very distressing and difficult experience for parents.

Babies affected by colic can cry for prolonged periods, particularly in the late afternoon and evening.

One of the most distressing aspects for parents is that infants are often inconsolable.

Based on feedback from Care’s pharmacy customers, their staff are increasingly the first healthcare professionals parents turn to.

This is particularly the case following NHS England’s three-month Stay Well Pharmacy campaign, launched last year by the Government’s Public Health and Primary Care Minister, Steve Brine.

This encouraged people caring for children under five to visit to their local pharmacy first for clinical advice for minor health concerns.

How can pharmacists help?

So, how can pharmacy staff help when faced with an anxious and fatigued parent who is looking for solutions to help them and their baby through the distressing effects of colic?

Pharmacy’s key role when it comes to colic in babies ­­- in line with NICE guidelines – is to offer advice, reassurance and information on the support available.

This includes encouraging parents and carers to look after their own wellbeing when the going gets tough.



NHS Choices defines colic simply as ‘when a baby cries a lot but there’s no obvious’*[1].

It applies the 3/3/1 rule to check whether a baby has colic; ‘If they cry more than 3 hours a day, 3 days a week for at least 1 week’1.

Possible symptoms include:

  • Becoming red in the face while crying.
  • Clenched fists.
  • Knees drawn up to the stomach or arched back.
  • Their tummy rumbles or they’re very windy.


The NICE Guidelines

Pharmacy staff can advise parents on strategies to help soothe a crying baby based on NICE guidelines.

These are:

  • Holding the baby through the crying episode.
  • Gentle motion, such as pushing the pram or rocking the crib.
  • ‘White noise’, such as a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer.
  • Bathing the baby in a warm bath.
  • Ensuring an optimal winding technique is used during and after feeds, if needed.

As well as advising parents on what they can do to try to alleviate the symptoms of colic, it is equally important to reassure them their baby will get better and signpost support, should they need it.

NICE recommends encouraging parents to ask family and friends for support; access peer support; rest while their baby is asleep and put their baby somewhere safe, such as their cot, if they feel unable to cope with crying for a few minutes of ‘time out’.

If parents feel unable to cope with their baby’s symptoms, despite reassurance and advice, NICE suggest pharmacists should recommend seeking specialist medical advice such as a GP or health visitor.

Understandably people want answers and insight into distressing conditions such as these.

Unfortunately, when it comes to colic, it isn’t that straightforward.

The cause or causes of colic are unknown, but, according to NHS Choices, it may be because babies find it harder to digest food when they’re young.

The NHS highlights several management strategies that parents may have heard of to address the symptoms of colic including anti-colic drops, changes to diet for breastfeeding mothers and spinal manipulation but adds ‘there’s very little evidence these things work’.

Nevertheless, consumers will continue to ask pharmacies for advice and options on remedies available to them.

Co Lactase Infant Drops

Over-the-counter remedies to help relieve colic symptoms include Simeticone drops or lactase drops.

Simeticone drops, added to a baby’s feed bottle, are supposed to help release bubbles of trapped air in a baby’s digestive system.[3]

Lactase is an enzyme that helps break down lactose found in breast and infant formula milk.[3]

Care’s specialist National Pharmacy Association-approved training programme offers helpful information to healthcare professionals based on the product development research of Care Co-Lactase Infant Drops.

Pharmacy staff can advise parents to try the recommended soothing techniques and look at feeding behaviour before turning to an over-the-counter product.

When it comes to recommending infant drops it’s essential to be upfront about the evidence behind them, but pharmacy can still offer help and advice.

Cry-sis is a self-help support group recommended by the NHS for those who are experiencing problems with their crying and sleepless babies.

Pharmacies can signpost parents to the website at www.cry-sis.org.ukor their national helpline on 0845 122 8669.


* Care Co-Lactase Infant Drops, are the UK’s fastest growing infant drops. For verification please write to Thornton & Ross Ltd, HD7 5QH.

1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/colic/

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26581647

3. https://www.northhampshireccg.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/b99._infantile_colic_drop-list_2.0.pdf

Grey Angle