What To Expect When Your Child Needs A Hydrogen Breath Test

Results of Hydrogen Breath Test

A hydrogen breath test can help determine whether your child has a sugar intolerance.

Candy, fruits, milk — there’s sugar in many of the foods your child might love. Though they may be tasty, they may also make some children feel sick.

Your child’s body is supposed to break down sugar and use it for energy. However, some children may have a harder time digesting and absorbing some sugars, causing stomach bloating, diarrhea or abdominal pain.

The types of sugars in many children’s diet are:

  • Lactose, which comes from milk
  • Sucrose, which comes from sweets
  • Fructose, which comes from fruits and sweets
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Fortunately, there is an effective test that helps your child’s physician determine if they can digest or absorb sugars called a hydrogen breath test.

What Happens During A Hydrogen Breath Test?

The test is simple: Your child drinks a small dose of liquid and their physician measures how much hydrogen is in their breath. If your child has a high amount of hydrogen in their breath, that may be a sign their body isn’t breaking down the sugar as it should, and they could have a sugar intolerance.

How Should My Child Prepare For A Hydrogen Breath Test?

There are a few rules your child must follow before their hydrogen breath test to get accurate results. Please follow these directions exactly. If you don’t follow these directions exactly, we may have to reschedule the test.

4 Weeks Before The Test

  • Do not give your child antibiotics or probiotics for 4 weeks before the test
  • Call us if any of this restriction conflicts with other advice from your child’s other doctors or medical providers

1 Week Before the Test

  • Stop giving your child any laxatives or stool softeners (such as Colace®, Milk of Magnesia®, Ex-Lax®, Miralax®) or stool bulking agents (such as Metamucil® or Citrucel®) 1 week before the test
  • Do not schedule any tests for your child that require a bowel clean-out, such as a colonoscopy or barium enema

The Day Before The Test

Some foods may cause the test results to be inaccurate. To avoid this, your child will only be able to eat or drink the following foods the day before their test:

Your Child Can Eat:

  • Plain white bread
  • Plain white rice
  • Baked or broiled chicken
  • Baked or broiled turkey
  • Baked or broiled fish
  • Chicken broth
  • Beef broth
  • Eggs
  • Salt and pepper
    (no butter or margarine)

Your Child Can Drink:

  • Water
  • Black coffee
  • Tea

The Night Before The Test

The night before the test, your child should eat an early dinner of only rice and any of the meats listed above. Do not allow your child to eat or drink anything else — it could give the wrong test result.

12 Hours Before The Test

12 hours before the test, your child will need to stop eating and drinking.

The Day Of The Test

On the day of your child’s hydrogen breath test:

  • Do not allow your child to eat or drink in the morning — except for plain water.
  • If your child takes prescription medication, they can have a small sip of water. If your child is diabetic, you must talk with their diabetes doctor about medications. They may need to change the dose of insulin or other medications.
  • Do not allow your child to brush their teeth within 2 hours of the test.
  • Do not allow your child to chew gum, use tobacco, smoke cigarettes, or eat breath mints/candy before or during the test.
  • Do not allow your child to be exposed to second-hand smoke for at least 1 hour before the test (or ever, actually).

Also, please know that the test will take 3 to 4 hours. Unfortunately, your child cannot sleep or exercise during the test. However, there will be movies, video games, books, and toys to keep them occupied — and you can stay with them the entire time.

You can expect results from your child’s test in 1 week.

Getting to Children’s For Your Child’s Breath Hydrogen Test

When you get to the hospital, please check in at the Access Center in the Main Hospital lobby at 8200 Dodge St., Omaha, NE 68114.

You can park in the parking garage on Dodge St.

Still have questions about your child’s hydrogen breath test? Contact Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition at Children’s Nebraska at 402-955-5700.

What To Do Next

For Patients

Make An Appointment

To make an appointment, call 402-955-5700.

For Referring Providers

The Physicians’ Priority Line is your 24-hour link to pediatric specialists at Children’s for referrals, emergency and urgent consults, physician-to-physician consults, admissions, and transport services. Call 855-850-KIDS (5437).

Learn more about referring patients.


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