Connection between Migraine & Colic

Migraine doesn’t discriminate based on age—it can occur at any age. There are also other conditions or syndromes that can occur even in infants that may be related to migraine. Is colic one of those? That’s a question that has been asked for some time now.

The lay definition of infantile colic is “excessive, frequent crying of an otherwise healthy and well-fed infant. ” It follows the rule of threes: crying must last for at least 3 hours, occurring on at least 3 days per week, and persist for at least 3 weeks. Colic occurs in five to nine percent of infants, peaks at six to eight weeks, and usually resolves in three to four months. If you are concerned that your infant may have colic, your child should be assessed by their doctor to ensure that there is no other potential causes for their symptoms and not just assume they have colic.

Please refer to the International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd edition (beta version) website for more information on the proposed criteria for diagnosis of infantile colic: https://www.ichd-3.org/appendix/a1-migraine/a1-6-episodic-syndromes-that-may-be-associated-with-migraine/a1-6-4-infantile-colic/

Colic has been suggested as an early life expression of migraine because:

  • Children with migraine are more likely to have experienced infantile colic compared to children without migraine
  • Mothers with migraine have been found to be 2.5 times more likely to have infants with colic than mothers without migraine. Fathers with migraine are 2 times more likely to have infants with colic than fathers without migraine.

Infantile colic can be a frightening and frustrating condition for parents. Often parents may feel guilty because their child’s continuous crying may make them feel as if they aren’t able to meet their child’s needs. Unfortunately, excessive crying can sometimes lead to inappropriate parental responses resulting in shaken baby syndrome.

Once a diagnosis of infantile colic has been confirmed and other potential underlying causes excluded, education about the potential association between infant colic and migraine may help parents understand why their baby is crying so much as well as alleviate guilt/concern and provide reassurance that the prognosis is generally good.

If we consider colic a potential early manifestation of migraine, then treatment should take into consideration how migraines are treated. If the parents experience migraines themselves, it is helpful to remind them of what they experience and prefer to do when they have a migraine. Consider:

  • Light sensitivity- Dim lights
  • Sound sensitivity- Turn down loud music, avoid loud toys, have siblings/pets go to another room
  • Smell sensitivity- Avoid strong smells
  • Worse with activity- Rock gently, avoid vigorous bouncing

Summary

Colic is a condition of excessive crying in young infants that resolves after a few months. Medical evaluation is needed for infants suspected of having colic to ensure there are no other underlying causes for their symptoms. Because colic is more common in children with migraine and is more likely to occur in children of parents with migraine, it is thought to be a potential early life expression of migraine. However, continued research is needed on this.

Resoucres:

The International Headache Society. https://www.ichd-3.org/appendix/a1-migraine/a1-6-episodic-syndromes-that-may-be-associated-with-migraine/a1-6-4-infantile-colic/

Gelfand AA. Infant colic. Semin Pediatr Neurol. 2016; 23 (10):79-82.