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Distinguishing Between Colic and Other Causes of Crying

If your baby has colic, you may be concerned that a health condition is causing the excessive crying. Usually a baby with colic is not crying because of pain or physical discomfort. But it is important to be aware that health problems or injuries can cause a baby to cry excessively. And it is important to watch for related signs.

A baby who is in pain may:

  • Have a furrowed brow, wrinkled forehead, or closed eyes.
  • Have a change in his or her daily activities or behavior (such as decreased appetite, irritability, restlessness, or agitated behavior).
  • Sleep more or less than usual. He or she may suddenly start waking up during sleeping, appearing to be in pain. Even if a baby is having severe pain, the baby may take short naps because he or she is exhausted.
  • Grunt when breathing or hold his or her breath.
  • Have clenched fists and pull his or her legs up or kick.
  • Cling to whoever holds him or her, or the baby may be limp and not move at all.
  • Flinch and move to protect a painful area of his or her body when touched.

Common infections in babies that may cause crying are:

  • Ear infections.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Stomach flu (gastroenteritis).

A medical condition such as hydrocephalus can cause a baby to cry excessively.

Injuries that may cause crying and can be difficult to identify are:

  • A corneal abrasion. This is a scratch on the clear covering (cornea) that covers the colored part of the eye.
  • A broken collar bone (fractured clavicle).
  • A hair wound tightly around a finger or the penis. The hair usually comes from an adult when changing or holding the baby.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised May 10, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 10, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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