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Gastroenterology and Nutrition

Stool Color Guide

 What your child's poop color can tell you?

Poop comes in all colors (and all smells and textures!) including many shades of brown, green, or yellow. In general, these colors are normal and variations in these colors do not indicate that anything is wrong.

In some instances, poop color can provide important clues as to problems with the gastrointestinal tract or liver.

Red and Black stools 

Lots of foods, drinks, or medications may make the poop red or black and it is not concerning when foods do this. For example, beets and artificial fruit juice can make the poop red while licorice, blueberries and Pepto-Bismol® can make it black. All babies have black stools for the first few days of life called meconium.

However, most of the time red or black stools are concerning for gastrointestinal bleeding. Bright red stools are most commonly associated with problems near the end of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., the rectum) and black stools typically suggest problems earlier in the gastrointestinal tract such as the stomach or the beginning of the small intestine. Maroon stools often suggest a problem somewhere in the middle of the gastrointestinal tract. Additional information about gastrointestinal bleeding, can be found on our website.

If you suspect that your child has red or black stools, you should see your child's pediatrician right away.

White stools 

Very rarely, babies will develop white, chalky grey, or pale-yellow stools. This may not be obvious in the first few days or weeks of life when all babies have normal, black stools. However, these pale stools suggest that there may be a life-threatening blockage in the liver preventing bile, the green fluid stored in the gallbladder that gives stool the yellow/brown color, from getting out of the liver. If you suspect that your infant has white, chalky grey, or pale-yellow stools, you must contact your child's pediatrician right away. The most common cause of these stools in infants is a disease called biliary atresia, and earlier diagnosis of this condition is important to correct this problem.

 

Additional resources

LIBRARY
Please visit our collection of stool photographs to help you learn more about normal and abnormal stool color. 

Mobile App:
You may also download a mobile app for your iPhone or Android smartphone that can analyze your baby's stool color, and help you to determine if additional evaluation by your pediatrician is necessary.

Stool Color Card
You can download a copy of a stool color guide to educate new parents about colors associated with infant liver disease such as biliary atresia. The guides are available in English or Spanish. These guides are being distributed nationwide to birthing centers by Procter & Gamble Baby Care through a collaboration with Johns Hopkins Children’s Center division of pediatric gastroenterology. To order printed copies of stool guides for your hospital or pediatric practice, please call 800-543-3331.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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