Colic is defined as a regular periods of intense crying from an otherwise healthy and well-fed baby. Most often, the crying has no apparent cause. Colic does not typically result in any long-term problems, and most colicky babies will grow out of the condition between four months and one year of age. Babies cry for many different reasons, and the diagnosis of colic must exclude all other potential causes of crying. When a baby’s colic has been diagnosed as caused by stomach acid reflux (also known as GORD, see below), a doctor may prescribe a liquid omeprazole formulation.
Omeprazole belongs to a class of medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). The main action of PPIs is a pronounced and long-lasting reduction of gastric (stomach) acid production. They are the most potent inhibitors of acid secretion available. The maximum effectiveness of omeprazole occurs around two hours after administration, lasting for up to three days. However, stomach pain from certain conditions may not ease for several days. If symptoms persist, a doctor should be consulted.
Omeprazole is used in the treatment of conditions where there is too much acid in the stomach. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is the most common of these, in which stomach acid leaks upward into the oesophagus causing irritation and heartburn, a painful burning feeling in the chest or throat. In babies, GORD is sometimes a cause of colic. In adults, omeprazole is also used to treat peptic ulcers (sores that develop in the stomach or small intestine lining due to damage from stomach acid), oesophagitis (tissue damage to the lining of the oesophagus due to inflammation or irritation over a prolonged period), and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (a rare disorder resulting in excessive production of stomach acid and often, multiple peptic ulcers).
Omeprazole has been used safely in both adults and children for a long time, and adverse effects are rare, even after long-term treatment. Some very uncommon effects reported in adults include headache, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and dizziness. Very rarely, babies treated with omeprazole may experience changes to their bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation), vomiting, or a skin rash.
At present there are no commercially available omeprazole liquids. A basic, commonly compounded version of omeprazole for infants contains bicarbonate, which not only tastes unpleasant (making it dificult to administer to an unhappy baby) but bicarbonate may react with acid in the baby's stomach to cause gas and bloating—thereby exacerbating colic problems. However, it is possible to formulate an omeprazole suspension that contains no bicarbonate. Pleasant in flavour and not causing bloat, such suspensions are ideal for use with infants.
Contact or pharmacists if you would like any more advice regarding omeprazole for infants.
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