Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, infections are a bacterial infection of the stomach and/or first part of the small intestine. As much as 50% of the world’s population may be infected with H. pylori. The number of H. pylori infections in New Zealand is becoming fewer probably due to rigorous sanitation practices.
What causes helicobacter pylori?
H. pylori is caused by the H. pylori bacterium and is passed from person to person through contact with saliva, faeces or untreated water. Although many bacteria can’t survive in the hostile environment of the stomach, the H. pylori bacterium has a special buffer that allows it to thrive in the digestive system.
Is helicobacter pylori serious?
Most helicobacter pylori infections are not serious and most people never know that they have been infected with the H. pylori bacteria. Serious symptoms such as ulcers and stomach cancer are more likely to appear in the elderly than in children.
Can I prevent helicobacter pylori?
Doctors aren’t entirely sure how H. pylori is spread other than through contact with infected saliva, faeces and untreated water. Good sanitation practices are likely the best way to prevent infection.
How do I know if my child has helicobacter pylori?
Although most H. pylori infections produce no symptoms, the following symptoms may occur in some children:
- Pain or burning in the abdomen
- Frequent burping
- Weight loss
How do I treat helicobacter pylori?
Your child’s doctor can test for the H. pylori bacteria and decide if he needs to be treated. Treatment to eliminate the H. pylori bacterium from the digestive system is called Triple Therapy, and includes the use of two antibiotics, amoxicillin and clarithromycin, to kill the bacteria, along with a proton pump inhibitor to suppress stomach acid production and allow the antibiotics to work better. Because many bacteria are showing signs of antibiotic resistance, your doctor may prescribe a different course of treatment.
Should I call the doctor?
There is usually no need to call the doctor for a Helicobacter infection unless the following serious symptoms occur:
- Severe or persistent abdominal pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bloody or black tarry poo
- Bloody or black vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
What you need to know about helicobacter pylori
- The H. pylori bacterium infects as much as half of the world’s population.
- Most infected people are over the age of 60.
- Helicobacter pylori infections are decreasing in children in recent years.
- H. pylori infections are caused by bacteria entering the stomach and small intestine and can be cured with antibiotics and antacids.
- Most people with an H. pylori infection never show signs of illness.
Find more relevant articles and information about helicobacter pylori
- Learn more about bacterial infections
- Learn more about stomach and intestinal infections
- Learn more about diarrhoea
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand’s parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.
Last revised: Monday, 30 November 2009
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.