Up to 26 per cent of all infants in the West suffer from infantile colic, making the condition one of the most frequent reasons for visits to family practiotioners. Colic is defined as recurrent crying or paroxysmal fussing, mainly in the evening, for at least three hours per day, at least three days per week and for at least one week in an otherwise healthy infant. The crying typically peaks around six weeks of age and ends around the fourth month. The causes behind colic are still not fully understood, but research suggests that the gut flora may have a significant role.
The incidence of constipation among children varies between 7 and 30 per cent depending on the country. A full 40 per cent develop symptoms already during the first year of life and these often persist for a long time. The problems often start when changing from breast milk to formula or with the introduction of solid food. Other frequent onset periods are during toilet training or when the child starts school. Many children with constipation have continued problems as teens and adults.
Regurgitation is defined as the passage of refluxed gastric content into the throat or mouth, sometimes with an expulsion out of the mouth. The frequency of regurgitation varies with age, with infants up to the first month being more frequently affected. Uncomplicated regurgitation in otherwise healthy infants is common and considered a developmental issue, most children have outgrown their regurgitation by their first birthday. Most infants are happy and healthy even if they frequently spit up or vomit.
Functional abdominal pain (FAP)
Long lasting intermittent or constant abdominal pain without evidence of an organic cause is defined as functional abdominal pain. It is estimated that 10-20 per cent of all school children suffer from functional pain disorders. The condition is one of the most commonly diagnosed medical problems in paediatrics. Functional abdominal pain may have a great impact on the child’s life, interfering with family and social life, participation at school, sports and other activities.
Acute gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms are loose or liquid stools, with or without fever or vomiting. The most common causes are viruses, with rotavirus being the most common type. At the age of five, all children, regardless of country of origin, have had a rotavirus infection. Diarrhoea as a side-effect of antibiotic therapy is also common. Up to 40 per cent of children treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics suffer from gastrointestinal side-effects. Apart from diarrhoea symptoms include nausea, vomiting, bloating and stomach pain. Antibiotics disrupt the balance of the intestinal flora and this imbalance can persist for a long time.