Pediatric Lactose and Urea Breath Testing

If your child is experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems, our experts at Children's Health℠ are here to help. We use noninvasive diagnostics, like lactose and urea breath testing, to determine the underlying cause of your child’s symptoms.

Caring for children with simple to complex GI issues is our specialty. We look forward to providing the answers and treatment your child needs to help them feel better.

What is Pediatric Lactose and Urea Breath Testing?

Pediatric lactose and urea breath tests are noninvasive assessments that are performed to diagnose certain gastrointestinal problems in children. A lactose breath test (also known as a hydrogen breath test) is used to diagnose lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products.

A urea breath test is used to detect the presence of a bacterial infection called Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori). This bacteria is most commonly found in the stomach and small intestine. It can cause ulcers, stomach irritation and abdominal pain.

These tests are very simple and don’t require needles or blood samples. Your child will be given a special solution to drink and a plastic bag. They’ll need to breathe into the bag every 15 – 30 minutes so we can measure their breath. Once the test is done, they can go about their day as usual.

What are the benefits of Pediatric Lactose and Urea Breath Testing?

Breath tests are beneficial because they are a noninvasive way to provide families with a medical diagnosis. Most of our patient families come to us because they’ve struggled for months to find an answer to what’s causing their child’s symptoms. At Children’s Health, we are proud to provide safe, effective testing to give an accurate diagnosis so children can receive the care they need.

What are the side effects of Pediatric Lactose and Urea Breath Testing?

While breath tests are generally harmless, they do require your child to drink a special liquid that can worsen their typical GI symptoms.

After lactose breath testing, your child might experience:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain

There are no side effects associated with urea breath testing. But please let us know if your child has any known allergies, especially to dyes, cherry flavoring or artificial sweeteners.

The ingredients to our tests include:

  • LacTest: 25gm lactose (milk sugar)
  • Fructose: 25gm fructose powder
  • Lactulose solution: 10gm lactulose for every 10ml, wild cherry flavoring and red dye for color
  • Other possible ingredients: phenylalanine and citric acid for sweeter in some solutions

What to expect with Pediatric Lactose and Urea Breath Testing

Below is an overview of what to expect before, during, and after pediatric lactose and urea breath testing.

We will set up a call one week before your child’s breath test to go over questions and schedule a time they should arrive for their appointment. Certain medications like antibiotics and acid blockers should not be taken prior to these tests. You will receive instructions from our team regarding this prior to your appointment. All breath tests are performed in our GI Outpatient Lab at the main hospital.

What to expect during Pediatric Lactose and Urea Breath Testing

Lactose breath testing:

To start, your child will drink a glass of water with lactose in it. They will then blow air into a small plastic bag. We’ll take a sample of air from the bag and place it into a machine to measure the amount of hydrogen your child’s body is making. Hydrogen is a gas that is made when the body can’t break down lactose. We will repeat this process every 30 minutes for four hours. Kids are welcome to bring their ipads iPad or a book to read while they complete the test.

Urea breath testing:

First, we’ll have your child blow into a small bag. This will be the starting measurement (baseline). Then, your child will drink a special liquid and after 15 minutes we’ll have your child blow into a new bag to take another measurement. Both air samples will be tested for the bacteria helicobacter pylori. Urea breath testing takes about 30 minutes to complete.

What to expect after Pediatric Lactose and Urea Breath Testing

After your child’s breath test is complete, they can go home and continue with their usual routine. If your child just completed a lactose test, they may feel uncomfortable symptoms, like gas or bloating. Once they finish their test, they can take their usual medications to ease their symptoms.

Our GI lab will send your child’s pediatrician a report of their test results in about a week. Your child’s pediatrician will contact you to review the results with you.

How do I prepare my child for Pediatric Lactose and Urea Breath Testing?

There is little prep work needed for lactose and urea breath testing.

What is my child allowed to eat and drink before Pediatric Lactose and Urea Breath Testing?

Lactose breath testing:

  • Your child should not eat, drink or chew gum 12 hours before the test

Urea breath testing:

  • Your child should not eat, drink or chew gum one hour before the test

What are the prep instructions for Pediatric Lactose and Urea Breath Testing?

Your child shouldn’t take the following medicines for 14 days before their breath test:

  • Zantac® (ranitidine)
  • Prilosec® (omeprazole)
  • Protonix® (pantoprazole)
  • Prevacid® (lansoprazole)
  • Nexium® (esomeprazol)
  • Pepto-Bismol® (bismuth subsalicylate)
  • Carafate® (sucralfate)
  • Antibiotics

Talk to your child’s pediatrician before stopping any medications.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do these tests involve sedation?

    These breath tests are noninvasive and do not require sedation (anesthesia).

  • Will my child have to miss school?

    Once your child’s test is complete, they can return to school and their daily activities.