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Editor,—In his commentary Dr Bell refers to ‘gripe water’ as being out of fashion.1 On the contrary, high street pharmacists will attest to the common use of gripe water for colic and other infantile ailments. In a survey of 200 infants in Sheffield 64% received gripe water, 28% for 15 days or more.2 In the UK the sucrose content of gripe water varies between 10 and 20%. The dramatic response to 12% sucrose that was noted by Dr Markestad will be at variance with the experience of UK practitioners. Children presenting with colic have frequently been taking sucrose containing gripe waters with no noticeable improvement.
Some years ago out of concern for children’s dental health we called for sugar free gripe waters.3 The pharmaceutical industry responded by introducing sugar free gripe waters which contain lycasin as a sweetener. My concern is that the publicity given to Dr Markestad’s study may persuade parents to opt for the sugar containing preparations. Until the results of this study can be confirmed by others paediatricians should avoid recommending the sugar containing preparations.
Finally, Dr Bell can be assured that alcohol containing gripe water is now dead and buried. A study many years ago showed that 20% alcohol is no more effective in relieving colic than coloured water.4
Editor,—I read this paper, and Dr Bell’s commentary, with pleasure.1-1 I would like to add to Dr Bell’s comment in that I am sure many paediatricians out of the first flush of their youth can remember using a mixture of honey and brandy placed on a dummy as an analgesic while doing exchange transfusion. I imagine you will receive many similar letters—plus ça change …