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Health Information For Parents
A stool (feces) sample can provide doctors with valuable information about what’s going on when a child has a problem in the stomach, intestines, or other part of the gastrointestinal (GI) system. A stool culture helps the doctor see if there’s a bacterial infection in the intestines.
A technician places small stool samples in sterile plastic dishes with nutrients that encourage the growth of certain bacteria. The targeted bacteria will only grow if they’re already in the stool sample. If bacterial colonies form, the technician evaluates them using a microscope and chemical tests to identify the organism.
A doctor may request a stool culture to look for illness-causing bacteria such as:
Sometimes, other bacteria are found.
The stool culture might be ordered if your child has diarrhea for several days or has bloody diarrhea, especially if there’s been an outbreak of foodborne illness in your community, your child has recently eaten undercooked meat or eggs or unpasteurized milk, or your child has recently traveled to certain places outside the United States.
Unlike most other lab tests, a stool sample is usually collected by parents at home, not by health care professionals at a hospital or clinic. No special preparation is required, but tell your doctor if your child has recently taken antibiotics.
The doctor or hospital laboratory will usually provide written instructions on how to collect a stool sample. If instructions aren’t provided, here are tips for collecting a stool sample from your child:
When the sample arrives at the laboratory, a technician smears stool samples on a growth-encouraging substance inside sterile plates. These plates are each kept at a temperature that ensures the quickest growth of targeted bacteria.
If no bacterial colonies form, the test is negative, meaning that there’s no sign of a bacterial infection. But if bacterial colonies do form, the technician examines them under a microscope and may perform chemical tests to identify them more specifically.
In general, the result of the stool culture is reported within 24 to 48 hours.
No risks are associated with collecting stool samples.
Collecting a stool sample is painless. Tell your child that collecting the stool won’t hurt, but it has to be done carefully. A child who’s old enough might be able to collect the sample alone to avoid embarrassment. Tell your child how to do this properly.
If you have questions about the stool culture, speak with your doctor.
Your child’s doctor may order a stool collection test to check for blood, bacteria, ova, or parasites. Find out how this test is performed and when you can expect the results.
This test may be done if a child has watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, large amounts of intestinal gas, appetite loss, and nausea or vomiting.
A doctor may request an H. pylori antigen stool test if your child has symptoms that indicate a peptic ulcer, such as indigestion, abdominal pain, a full or bloated feeling, nausea, frequent belching, or vomiting.
This exam may be done if your child has diarrhea for an extended period, blood or mucus in the stool, abdominal pain, nausea, headaches, or fever.
A doctor may request a C. difficile toxin stool test if your child has taken antibiotics in the past month or so and has had diarrhea for several days.
Stool samples can provide information about a problem in the GI system. To test the stool for the presence of blood, a noninvasive test – the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) – is performed.
Yersiniosis is an uncommon infection caused by the consumption of undercooked meat products, unpasteurized milk, or water contaminated by the bacteria.
These bacterial infections can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Good hand-washing and food safety habits can help prevent them.
Shigella are bacteria that can infect the digestive tract and cause a wide range of symptoms, from diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, and nausea, to more serious complications and illnesses.
Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it’s importantÂ to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it.
Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection marked by severe diarrhea. Here’s how to protect your family.
Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here’s how to protect yourself.
Did you ever eat something that made you feel ooky? It might have been food poisoning.
Salmonellosis is a foodborne illness caused by the bacteria salmonella. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and headache.
Salmonellosis is an illness caused by a bacteria found in raw food, soil, water and the bowel movements of some animals, including reptiles. Find out how to prevent this illness.
People often think of salmonellosis as food poisoning, but food is only one way the bacteria Salmonella can be spread.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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