Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori is a bacteria that infects the stomach. The infection is very common. Luckily, most of those infected never experience any symptoms and have no signs of the disease.
However, some adults and a small number of children with the infection will develop inflammation and even ulcers of the stomach or small intestine.
Currently it is not known how people get H. pylori infection. Contaminated food or water and mouth-to-mouth contact through saliva are the main ways to contract the infection. It is unknown why symptoms develop in some children and not in others.
Copy adapted with permission from NASPGHAN, the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.
There are three tests that can identify the presence of an H. pylori infection, including:
Endoscopy with biopsy
The primary goal in testing is to determine the possible cause of the child's symptoms and not simply to detect the presence of an H. pylori infection. An endoscopy can help look for other problems in addition to evaluating for H. pylori.
The best way to get rid of H. pylori is to use triple-therapy for 10 to 14 days. Usually antibiotics such as clarithromycin, amoxicillin and metronidazole and an acid-blocking drug like ranitidine, lansoprazole or omeprazole are prescribed in various combinations.
Finishing all medicines prescribed by your doctor is very important for successfully eliminating infection.
After treatment, children may sometimes complain of discomfort in their stomach and this can take several months to resolve completely. Continuing the acid blocking medicines for several more weeks can be helpful in these cases.
Triple therapy is recommended for children who have active H. pylori infection and are suffering from pain, nausea, poor appetite or heartburn and those in whom ulcers have been found during an endoscopy. Some doctors might also choose to treat patients who only have inflammation in the stomach. Triple therapy is not right for every child. Ask your doctor if it is the right treatment for your child.