Abdominal Pain - Female
Abdominal Pain - Male
Acne
Animal or Human Bite
Antibiotics: When Do They Help
Arm Injury
Arm Pain
Asthma Attack
Athlete's Foot
Back Pain
Bed Bug Bite
Bee or Yellow Jacket Sting
Blisters
Bottle-Feeding Formula Questions
Breast-Feeding Questions
Breath-holding Spell
Bruise
Bruises and Cuts
Burn
Chest Pain
Chickenpox
Circumcision Problems
Colds
Constipation
Cough
Coughs: Meds or Home Remedies
Cracked or Dry Skin
Cradle Cap
Croup
Crying Baby - Before 3 Months Old
Crying Child - 3 Months and Older
Cut, Scrape, or Bruise
Diaper Rash
Diarrhea
Diarrhea Diseases From Travel
Dizziness
Drinking Fluids - Decreased
Dry Skin
Ear - Congestion
Ear - Discharge
Ear - Injury
Ear - Pulling At or Rubbing
Ear - Swimmer's
Ear Infection Questions
Earache
Earwax Buildup
Ebola Exposure
Eczema
Emergency Symptoms Not to Miss
Eye - Allergy
Eye - Foreign Body or Object
Eye - Injury
Eye - Pus or Discharge
Eye - Red Without Pus
Eye - Swelling
Fainting
Fever
Fever - How to Take the Temperature
Fever - Myths Versus Facts
Fifth Disease
Finger Injury
Fire Ant Sting
Flu
Fluid Intake Decreased
Food Allergy
Foreskin Care Questions
Frostbite
Genital Injury - Female
Genital Injury - Male
Hair Loss
Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease HFMD
Hay Fever
Head Injury
Headache
Heat Exposure and Reactions
Heat Rash
Hives
Human or Animal Bite
Immunization Reactions
Impetigo - Infected Sores
Infection Exposure Questions
Influenza - Seasonal
Influenza Exposure
Insect Bite
Jaundiced Newborn
Jellyfish Sting
Jock Itch
Leg Injury
Leg Pain
Lice - Head
Lymph Nodes - Swollen
Medication - Refusal to Take
Menstrual Cramps
Menstrual Period - Missed or Late
Mental Health Problems
Molluscum
Mosquito Bite
Mosquito-Borne Diseases from Travel
Motion Sickness
Mouth Injury
Mouth Ulcers
Neck Pain or Stiffness
Newborn Appearance Questions
Newborn Illness - How to Recognize
Newborn Rashes and Birthmarks
Newborn Reflexes and Behavior
Nose Allergy Hay Fever
Nose Injury
Nosebleed
Penis-Scrotum Symptoms
Pinworms
Poison Ivy - Oak - Sumac
Puncture Wound
Rash or Redness - Localized
Rash or Redness - Widespread
Reflux Spitting Up
Ringworm
Roseola
Scabies
Scorpion Sting
Scrape
Sinus Pain or Congestion
Skin Foreign Body or Object
Skin Injury
Skin Lump
Sliver or Splinter
Sore Throat
Spider Bite
Spitting Up - Reflux
Stomach Pain - Female
Stomach Pain - Male
Stools - Blood In
Stools - Unusual Color
Strep Throat Exposure
Strep Throat Infection
Sty
Sunburn
Suture Questions
Swallowed Foreign Body or Object
Swallowed Harmless Substance
Swimmer's Itch - Lakes and Oceans
Tear Duct - Blocked
Teething
Thrush
Tick Bite
Toe Injury
Toenail - Ingrown
Tooth Injury
Toothache
Umbilical Cord Symptoms
Urinary Tract Infection - Female
Urination Pain - Female
Urination Pain - Male
Vaginal Bleeding
Vaginal Symptoms
Vomiting With Diarrhea
Vomiting Without Diarrhea
Warts
Wheezing Other Than Asthma
Wound Infection

Resources

Is Your Child Sick?TM


Stools - Unusual Color

Is this your child's symptom?

  • Stool color that is strange or different than normal
  • Normal stool colors are any shade of brown, tan, yellow or green
  • The only colors that may be caused by a disease are red, black and white
  • Dark green may look like black, but dark green is a normal color

If NOT, try one of these:


Causes of Unusual Stool Color

  • Almost always due to food coloring or food additives.
  • Stool color relates more to what is eaten than to any disease.
  • In children with diarrhea, the gastrointestinal (GI) passage time is very rapid. Stools often come out the same color as the fluid that went in. Examples are Kool-Aid or Jell-O.
  • The only colors we worry about are red, black (not dark green) and white.

Clues to Unusual Stool Colors

Red:

  • "Bloody stools": 90% of red stools are not caused by blood
  • Blood from lower GI tract bleeding
  • Medicines. Red medicines (like Amoxicillin). Sometimes, other medicines that turn red in the GI tract (such as Omnicef)
  • Foods. See list below.

Foods That Can Cause Red Stools:

  • Red Jell-O, red or grape Kool-Aid
  • Red candy, red licorice
  • Red cereals
  • Red frosting
  • Beets
  • Cranberries
  • Fire Cheetos
  • Red peppers
  • Tomato juice or soup, tomato skin

Black:

  • Blood from stomach bleeding (stomach acid turns blood to a dark, tar-like color)
  • Foods. Licorice, Oreo cookies, grape juice
  • Medicines. Iron, bismuth (Pepto-Bismol)
  • Other. Cigarette ashes, charcoal
  • Bile. Dark green stools from bile may look black under poor lighting. Smear a piece of stool on white paper. Look at it under a bright light. This often confirms that the color is really dark green.

Green:

  • Green stools are always normal, but they can be mistaken for black stools.
  • Bile. Most dark green stools are caused by bile.
  • Green stools are more common in formula fed than breastfed infants. It can be normal with both.
  • Green stools are more common with diarrhea. This is due to a fast transit time through the gut. However, formed stools can also be green.
  • Dark green stools may look black under poor lighting. Eating spinach can cause dark green stools.
  • Medicines. Iron (such as in formula)
  • Foods. See list below.

Foods That Can Cause Green Stools:

  • Green Jell-O
  • Grape-flavored Pedialyte (turns bright green)
  • Green fruit snacks
  • Spinach or other leafy vegetables

White or Light Gray:

  • Foods. Milk-only diet
  • Medicines. Aluminum hydroxide (antacids), barium sulfate from barium enema
  • Liver disease. Babies with blocked bile ducts have stools that are light gray or pale yellow.

When to Call for Stools - Unusual Color

When to Call for Stools - Unusual Color

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Stool is light gray or white and occurs 2 or more times
  • Strange color without a cause lasts more than 24 hours (Exception: green stools)
  • Suspected food is stopped and strange color lasts more than 48 hours
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Strange stool color most likely from food or medicine
  • Green stools

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Stool is light gray or white and occurs 2 or more times
  • Strange color without a cause lasts more than 24 hours (Exception: green stools)
  • Suspected food is stopped and strange color lasts more than 48 hours
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Strange stool color most likely from food or medicine
  • Green stools

Care Advice for Stools - Unusual Color

  1. What You Should Know About Unusual Stool Color:
    • Strange colors of the stool are almost always due to food coloring.
    • The only colors that may relate to disease are red, black and white.
    • All other colors are not due to a medical problem.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Green Stools:
    • Green color of the stools is always normal. Most often, green stools are caused by bile.
    • Green stools are more common in formula fed than breastfed infants. But, they can be normal with both.
    • Green stools are more common with diarrhea. This is due to a fast transit time through the gut. However, formed stools may also be green. This is normal and nothing to worry about.
    • If your child takes iron, be sure your child is not taking too much.
  3. Avoid Suspected Food or Drink:
    • Don't eat the suspected food.
    • Don't drink the suspected drink.
    • The strange stool color should go away within 48 hours.
  4. Save a Sample:
    • If the strange stool color doesn't go away, bring in a sample.
    • Keep it in the refrigerator until you leave.
  5. What to Expect:
    • Remove the cause of the unusual color from the diet.
    • Then the stool should change back to normal color.
    • This should happen within 48 hours or 2 stools later.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Strange color without a cause lasts more than 24 hours
    • Suspected food is stopped and strange color lasts more than 48 hours
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.


Copyright 2000-2018. Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

Select from over 100 symptoms to learn about managing your child's illness.