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Understanding H pylori and Ulcers in Children

H pylori is a common bacteria. It is a cause of ulcers (sores). H pylori weakens the mucous layer that coats the inside of the stomach and duodenum (first part of the small intestine). This allows stomach acid to flow through the weakened layer and burn the tissue of the stomach wall below.

What Are the Symptoms of Ulcers?

Ulcer symptoms can come and go. Or, your child may not have symptoms at all. Common symptoms include:

  • Burning, cramping, or hungerlike pain in your child’s stomach area. This often happens 1–3 hours after a meal, or in the middle of the night.

  • Pain that gets better or worse with eating.

  • Nausea or vomiting (blood may be present in vomit).

  • Black, tarry stools (this means the ulcer is bleeding).

How Are Ulcers Caused by H pylori Diagnosed?

Your child’s doctor can order tests to see if ulcers are present. The doctor will then check to see if the ulcers are caused by H pylori. Tests may include:

  • A special x-ray called a barium upper gastrointestinal (GI) series. Your child will drink a chalky liquid that helps ulcers show up on an x-ray.

  • An endoscopic exam. An endoscope is a thin, soft tube with a tiny camera attached. After your child is sedated or under anesthesia, the tube is inserted through your child’s mouth into the stomach. This allows the doctor to see the ulcers. This tube may also be used to do a biopsy (take a tiny tissue sample).

  • Blood, stool, or breath tests to check for H pylori in your child’s digestive tract.

How Are Ulcers Caused by H pylori Treated?

Ulcers caused by H pylori are fairly easy to treat. The doctor will prescribe antibiotics to kill H pylori bacteria. Your child may also need ulcer medications to help the stomach lining heal. Follow all instructions carefully about giving your child medications. This will often prevent ulcers caused by H pylori from returning.

 

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