14:08 PM

A POO-POURRI OF COLORS: What Your Child’s Stool Colors Mean

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If there is one thing I am texted or emailed about more than any other health issue in children, it’s poop color. Usually with a vibrant picture attached.

I am reminded of a very festive party I had for my kid a year or two ago. I served cupcakes with blue frosting. What followed was a week of worried messages from friends. “Something’s wrong with his poop”. “I don’t know if he ate anything different recently, it’s so bright green!” Ha. I brought that one on myself.

So what colors of poop make a pediatrician worry? Well, mostly – black, white and red. I’ll explain. Let’s dive into the different colors. So to speak. 

GREEN – super common with food dyes that are green and blue (like…. blue cupcakes). Also very common when breastfeeding infants drink a lot of foremilk (rather than a mix of foremilk and hindmilk), or kids drink formula. Taking antibiotics. Eating grass. Eating a lot of dark leafy green veggies like kale and spinach. Having a tummy bug (gastroenteritis, which causes vomiting and diarrhea sometimes).

BLUE – mostly food dyes. Blueberries.

ANY SHADE OF BROWN – Normal. Yes, tan is okay. Light brown. Greenish brown. All fine.

RED – Sometimes cause for concern. Could mean bleeding in the lower half of the intestinal tract. Could be Cow Milk Protein Intolerance. However, I’ve seen red stools with certain foods like beets and cranberries, too. The antibiotic Cefdinir (and other meds) can make stools red or orange. Your doctor can test a red stool to see if it’s actually blood or something different.

ORANGE – usually normal with foods like carrots and sweet potatoes. Medications like Cefdinir can cause orange stools too.

BLACK – Sometimes worrisome, sometimes not. Newborn babies have dark black tarry stools at birth and for a few days following. Pepto Bismol, licorice, and iron supplements can cause black stools. Can be due to blood from higher part of intestinal tract. If persistent and your kiddo isn’t taking meds, would see your doc.

YELLOW – totally normal in breastfed babies. Can sometimes happen with diarrheal illnesses in kids.

WHITE/PALE – I think this is okay if it’s an isolated 1 day event. I see it sometimes with diarrhea illnesses. However if it persists past 1 or 2 poops, time to talk to your doctor about possible liver disease.

This list is in reference to kids only. Adults have different-colored poops for similar, but not always the same, reasons.

Call your doc if you feel like your kiddo’s stools are any of the concerning colors above.

Get to know Diane Arnaout, M.D., a Cook Children's pediatrician at Forest Park

"I didn’t realize how important the job of the pediatrician was until I had kids of my own. My education, experience in medicine, and cocky attitude made me feel like I knew it all before my first one came around. He proceeded to make me very aware of how little I actually knew.

Thankfully he survived, as did the next one, and they’ve helped me to grow and to help YOU, the parent, in so many ways. Sure I’m here to make sure your kids are healthy and happy at all ages. But I’m also here to make sure you’re educated, to make sure your family is thriving, and to make you feel confident in caring for your kids. From diaper rashes to sleep problems to school difficulties - I’m here to help.

I write a lot about common problems and ailments online – you can find me busy on Facebook and Instagram, and I write articles for the Cook Children’s Checkup Newsroom blog. A lot of stuff you’ll hear me say in the office will be typed out on there, too. And we’re in a day and age where the internet helps make connections – you can connect with me on there, or e-mail me anytime.

It takes a village to raise a child – and I’m so grateful to be a part of yours. And as Master Yoda teaches us – “Always pass on what you have learned.” I fully plan to!"

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Arnaout, click here.