The Risks of Gripe Water

Gripe water is sterile water fortified with herbs to help calm the stomach and intestines of infants suffering from colic 1. This remedy usually does not have side effects and provides relief for babies with stomach cramps. Risks come from the particular herbs with which it is fortified, the presence of alcohol or other substances harmful to babies and the rare contamination by parasites.


In 2007 the FDA warned consumers of the risk of cryptosporidium illness from Baby’s Bliss Apple Gripe Water, which it ordered recalled. The gripe water was contaminated by the parasite cryptosporidium, which can cause intestinal infections. The most common symptoms of this infection are watery diarrhea, weight loss, stomach cramps or pain, nausea, fever, vomiting and dehydration. This illness could be life-threatening for infants because of the dehydration from the diarrhea. Although this was a one-time occurrence, you should take care with the gripe water you administer to your infant. You should not give gripe water to an infant less than 1 month old, for the baby's sensitivity and young digestive system cannot cope with it.

Adverse Reactions to Herbs

Gripe water is fortified with herbs to help with the stomach upset of infants. These herbs are usually chamomile, fennel, ginger, peppermint or varying combinations of these. While these herbs commonly help infants, peppermint, in particular, can aggravate a baby if he is suffering from reflux. Take precautions before administering gripe water to ascertain whether or not the infant does suffer from reflux. Check with your pediatrician to be certain. Also, some infants may be allergic to one or more of these herbal ingredients, which cause allergic symptoms and add to the discomfort of the baby. Stay alert and watch for any signs of allergy, such as a runny nose or skin irritation.

Harmful Ingredients

Gripe water can contain troubling ingredients that can have adverse reactions or side effects in babies. The most harmful ingredient, alcohol, is now prohibited from all brands sold in the U.S. Nevertheless, it is always wise to check the ingredient label. Another ingredient to watch out for is sodium bicarbonate. It can change the pH balance in your baby’s stomach acid and worsen the symptoms. More seriously, it can hinder your baby’s body from absorbing folic acid and iron, important to growth and metabolism. Other ingredients that can harm your infant are sucrose and simethicone, which can increase stomach upset rather than alleviate it.