Ok, so I realise that preparing for your child’s hydrogen breath test (HBT) is a REALLY specific topic. BUT. Rocky had this test the other day and I was chatting with the other parents at the hospital. We agreed that we’d have loved a little more information to help us know what to expect. So!, Let me serve the people! First, some background on Rocky’s lactose free life.
We have been treating Rocky as lactose intolerant for about a year now. His terrible sleeping habits combined with lots of mucus and snoring led us to believe that he might have some kind of dairy intolerance. I sought advice from my child and youth heath nurse and she said to try skipping lactose before eliminating dairy altogether – thank goodness for that! It’s quite easy to avoid lactose these days, there are lots of products on the market that are lactose free and Rocky still gets to enjoy milk, yoghurt and cheese.
The lactose free diet has appeared to have helped Rocky sleep better. He went from waking eight to twelve times a night (yes, really!) to only waking two to three times a night. His mucus and snoring also reduced and we were all a lot happier.
While it’s not too difficult to get lactose free food, it can be tricky when eating out at other people’s houses or at cafes. So, after a year on this modified diet, we thought it was about time that we got this lactose intolerance thing confirmed one way or the other. We got a referral from our GP and booked in for the next available appointment, a couple of months away.
Here’s the tricky part. The lactose breath test requires children aged 6 months and over to fast for 10 hours before starting the test (infants fast for 6 hours). Yikes! We also had to avoid yoghurt, bananas and apples the day before his test, among other foods (but these are his favourites). Rocky coped surprisingly well with the fasting, I was amazed! I expected huge tantrums, but they didn’t come until much later…
When we arrived for the test Rocky had to drink about 100 – 150 mls of a sugar drink. Which he really did NOT want to drink. We were offered a cup, a cup and straw, a bottle, a sippy cup, a syringe, orange flavouring … none of it worked. Rocky refused to drink. It took two other adults help and me wrapping him in a towel to keep his arms down to get any in him at all. And even then Rocky spat most of it right back out. His hair, face, neck, t-shirt and jacket were drenched in this sticky stuff. But we did our best!
Once he had the sugar drink Rocky had a breath sample taken every half hour for two and a half hours. He was still not allowed to eat anything. He was such a trooper! The Women’s and Children’s Hospital, where we had the test, were well prepared to distract kids. They had lots of toys to play with and kids shows on TV. They also have an awesome playground that wasn’t too far from our waiting rooms. I also took some of his favourite toys and books along for distraction.
At the 2 1/2 hour mark Rocky got a little bit Hulk on me and started to throw toys and push over furniture. Thankfully we were only a few minutes away from a banana and a bowl of hot chips! The final sample was taken and we were out of there. Here are my tips for preparing for a hyrodgen breath test.
* If you suspect that your child may an intolerance please seek professional medical advice. I am not a medical professional and share these tips from my own experience only.
How to prepare for your child’s hydrogen breath test
Arranging the test
- arrange your test by getting a referral from your GP and finding out where you can have your test. We had to go into the city for our test but you may find that you can go local.
- submit your referral to the test provider – ask about a cancellation list as the waiting time can be quite long. We were lucky and got called to come in a couple of weeks earlier than expected.
The week before the test
- if your child is old enough start preparing them for the test by practicing blowing – blowing out candles, blowing bubbles, blowing on flags or pinwheels. During the test they will be asked to blow through a straw, which can be tricky, especially when they haven’t done it before. Younger children will have their breath samples taken by a syringe like object (sorry, I don’t know the medical name!). The nurse places a small tube next to the infants nose and suctions breath from the nostril. It is not invasive or painful at all.
- find out about the test venue and whether there is some open play space or a playground that you can visit in the half hour gaps between breath samples. Play is fab distraction for kids!
The day before the test
- double check the list of restricted and banned foods for the day so that you increase your chances of a successful test.
On the day of the test
- pack a secret stash of snacks and hide them somewhere that your child won’t look for them. This will help you be prepared for the moment when they’re finally allowed to eat again without having to find a cafeteria and make them wait even longer.
- pack extra spare clothes. All the toddlers I saw ended up having the sugar drink spilled on them. I only packed one jacket for Rocky as I wasn’t expecting him to get so drenched!
- pack a small towel and a face washer – this will help protect your child’s clothes from getting drenched and help you to clean them up afterwards.
- take along some favourite toys and books to help distract your child.
- take two drink bottles. We used one for Rocky’s water, and the other for the sugar drink. We thought that a familiar drink bottle might help him drink it. It didn’t! But it might work for you.
- make friends with the other families in the waiting room, they are your allies!