A stool (feces) sample can provide doctors with valuable information about what's going on when someone has a problem in the stomach, intestines, rectum, or other part of the gastrointestinal (GI) system.
The intestines naturally contain a variety of bacteria, many of which help the body to digest food. Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is one of many bacteria commonly found in the intestines and stool of infants and children. C. difficile is normally harmless, but certain varieties may produce toxins (harmful substances) if the bacterial balance in the colon is disrupted. This might happen as a result of antibiotic treatment, chemotherapy, or intestinal disorders.
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, possibly accompanied by abdominal pain, poor appetite, and fever.
Unlike most other lab tests, a stool sample is often collected by parents at home, not by health care professionals at a hospital or clinic.
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 tests the stool for C. difficile toxins by putting it in contact with a chemical that changes color in their presence.
In general, the results of the C. difficile toxin stool test are reported within a few hours to a day. Repeat tests may be ordered to confirm the results.
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 C. difficile toxin stool test, speak with your doctor.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2014
|American Medical Association (AMA) The AMA has made a commitment to medicine by making doctors more accessible to their patients. Contact the AMA at: American Medical Association|
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|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|First Aid: Diarrhea Diarrhea is common and usually not a sign of something serious. Find out what to do if your child has diarrhea.|
|Diarrhea Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it's important to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it.|
|Stool Test: Bacteria Culture A stool culture helps doctors determine if there's a bacterial infection in the intestines.|
|Stool Test: Fecal Blood 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.|
|Stool Test: Giardia Antigen This test may be done if a child has watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, large amounts of intestinal gas, appetite loss, and nausea or vomiting.|
|Stool Test: H. Pylori Antigen 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.|
|Stool Test: Ova and Parasites (O&P) 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.|
|Stool Tests 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.|
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