Diaper Diagnosis: The Scoop on 7 Odd Poop Hues
Changing your baby's diaper -- or peeking into the training potty -- is a little like opening birthday presents: The contents are usually predictable, but every once in a while, there's a big, colorful surprise inside. Here's the scoop on seven odd poop hues and what to do next:
- Black poop is only normal during the first few days of a newborn's life. After that, tarry black lumps could signal bleeding -- or just be a sign that a toddler's been cramming down Oreos or licorice. What to do: Double-check the color by putting a small piece on white paper and looking at it in bright light. If it's actually dark green, see below. If it's true black (and food's not the cause), call your pediatrician.
- Bright red may mean your toddler ate beets for dinner. This isn't the only veggie that can turn poop (and pee) dramatic dark red. So can tomatoes, cranberries, cherry or cranberry Jell-O, and even grape Kool-Aid.
- Red streaks could be bleeding from tiny skin breaks around the anus that occur when your child passes large, hard stools. Still, signs of bleeding always merit a call to your pediatrician. Meanwhile, you can help loosen up your child's stools by making sure he or she drinks plenty of water and eats the foods that make poop soft and slippery -- yep, prunes, apricots, raisins, cherries, and blueberries as well as whole grains and high-fiber veggies like broccoli and beans.
- Green may be normal, especially during the first few months of breastfeeding. A toddler who loves spinach or green Jell-O or is taking iron will have green poop, too. Bile -- say from an intestinal infection, such as the highly contagious rotovirus -- turns stool green as well. (An oral rotavirus vaccine, given at 2, 4, and 6 months is usually protective.) If you don't think the green is due to food, call the doc.
- Yellow-brown poop that's accompanied by relentless tummy cramps warrants a call to your pediatrician, especially when it's also loose and watery. That's a classic sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and it may alternate with constipation. IBS is less common in toddlers than it is in school-age kids, who can get stressed about homework, friends, sports, music lessons . . . the works. What can help: a high-fiber diet, antidiarrheal meds, and anticholinergics (they keep soothing serotonin in your child's intestines longer).
- Chalk white, light gray, or pale yellow poop is common in moo-juice-guzzling babies on milk-only diets and in kids given antacids for tummy aches. But it can also be a sign of blocked bile ducts. If it's not one of the first two, call your doctor. Ditto if it's pale and really, really nasty smelling and/or fatty -- that suggests celiac disease or a mild gluten intolerance. Kids (grown-ups, too) with this condition can't digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Talk to your doctor about seeing a pediatric gastroenterologist (a digestion specialist), especially if your child seems to be growing too slowly or has diarrhea that won't quit.
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