Breath Hydrogen Testing-What to Expect and Preparation



Judy J. Davis, M.D, F.A.A.P.

1095 E Warner #102

Fresno, CA 93710

(559) 412-8184 Fax (559) 4381174

Hydrogen Breath Test

What is a Hydrogen Breath test?

A Hydrogen Breath test is used to measure the amount of hydrogen in exhaled air.  It is used to assist in diagnosing several conditions that may cause cramping, bloating, gas and diarrhea.

When is a Hydrogen Breath test used?

The test is commonly used to determine whether or not your child is able to digest dietary sugars such as lactose, sucrose, fructose and sorbitol (a sugar substitute).  The test may also be used to diagnose a bacterial overgrowth of the small bowel or to determine how fast food passes through the small intestine.

How does a Hydrogen Breath test work?

Bacteria in the colon are able to digest and use sugars and carbohydrates as food.  When the bacteria digest these sugars, they convert some of them to gases, including hydrogen.  Some of the hydrogen gas is absorbed by the colon, into the blood and is eliminated in the breath where it can be measured.  When sugars are being digested and absorbed normally, there is very little measurable hydrogen in the exhaled air.

What preparation is required before the test?

Your child will not be able to eat (including chewing gum) or drink for a minimum of 10 hours before the test.

He or she should not currently be taking antibiotics; and should not have taken any for the last 14 days prior to the test.

The patient should not have eaten slowly digested foods such as beans, bran or high fiber cereal the day before the test.

The patient should not smoke, sleep or exercise vigorously for at least one-half hour prior to or any time during the test.

If the patient has had diarrhea recently or currently has diarrhea, the physician should be notified as this can affect the test.

Only inhaled medications should be given prior to the test.  All other oral medications should be held until AFTER the test has been completed.

How long does the test take?

The test takes between 1 and 3 hours.  As this tends to be a long test, we encourage you to bring games, books or toys with which to entertain your child.  Please remember that at least one adult must remain with your child for the entire duration of the test.

Are there any side effects of Hydrogen Breath testing?

Side effects of this test are rare, but can include abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating or nausea.

Patient Name _________________________________    MR#_________________

Appointment Date __________________________  Time ___________________

Judy Davis, MD, FAAP

Fellow American Academy of Pediatrics

Fellow Sub-Board American Academy of Pediatric Gastroenterology

American Board of Nutrition

Clinical Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco

Revised 10/16

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