Infants with colic who cry inconsolably in the first months of life may be suffering from pain associated with migraine headaches, suggests new research that investigated a link between migraines in older children and colic in infancy.
Investigators studied 208 children aged 6 to 18 years who presented to emergency departments (EDs) in 3 European tertiary care hospitals between April 2012 and June 2012 and who were diagnosed with migraine headaches. A control group consisted of 471 children of similar ages without history of headache who visited the same EDs for minor trauma during the time period. A structured questionnaire identified personal histories of infantile colic in all study participants.
Researchers also conducted a second study of 120 children diagnosed with tension headaches to test the specificity of the association.
Data showed that children with migraine (with or without aura) were more likely to have had infantile colic than those without migraine (73.9% vs 26.5%, respectively). There was no association between migraine and colic for children with tension headache.
Twenty percent of US infants have colic—spells of intense crying that begin a few weeks after birth and last more than 3 hours a day, at least 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks.
Migraine headaches are rare in young children but occur in as many as 10% of adolescents. The throbbing headaches are thought to be hereditary, and may be caused by irritation of nerve cells in the brain interacting with blood vessels.
Researchers suggest that colic in infants could be caused by similar changes in nerve and blood vessels in the gut and may be an early manifestation of migraine. They propose that pain relievers sometimes used to treat migraine in children and pain in infants should be studied to determine whether they work for infant colic as well.