In an effort to protect and care for their children, many parents monitor the color of their toddlers’ bowel movements. In certain cases, green and yellow stool may develop from normal causes, but could also indicate a problem. Learn the facts about discolored stool in toddlers, including possible causes, potential complications and when it calls for a visit to your doctor.
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The colors of your toddler’s normal bowel movements often arise from the foods she eats. According to Theresa Kyle, certified pediatric nurse practitioner and author of the book “Essentials of Pediatric Nursing,” normal colors include brown, orange, yellow and green. When toddlers consume regular table fare, the foods they eat often make an encore appearance in the diaper or toilet, and chunks of food, such as corn or peas, could lend an increased yellow or greenish tint to your toddler’s stool. Similarly, foods rich in chlorophyll--think green veggies--may lead to stool that has a green appearance. According to Kyle, this feature of toddler stool arises from your child’s immature intestines.
The consistency and frequency of your toddler’s stool play a key role in helping you determine if green and yellow bowel movements are cause for alarm. Normal toddler bowel excretions could vary in consistency from being slightly mushy to being well-formed. Depending upon his daily patterns and bowel habits, your toddler could pass stool as frequently as twice daily or as infrequently as once weekly and still be healthy, notes Dr. Michael Roizen, coauthor of “Raising Your Child.” Regardless of color, thin or water-like stool that occurs three times or more daily generally indicates diarrhea.
Bouts with gastroenteritis typically cause most instances of green or yellow diarrhea in toddlers. These short-term intestinal infections arise from various viruses and bacteria. In addition to diarrhea, symptoms generally include nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Less common symptoms are chills, sweating, fever, muscle aches and lack of appetite. According to Medline Plus, rotavirus is responsible for more cases of severe gastroenteritis in children than any other virus or bacteria. In most instances, this diarrhea should not last more than two or three days. Severe cases require medical attention, especially if your toddler develops complications.
Ongoing or off-and-on loose green and yellow stool in toddlers might indicate a malabsorption disorder. This type of health condition occurs when your toddler is unable to properly digest or absorb certain nutrients from the intestinal tract. Malabsorption disorders include lactose intolerance and celiac disease. A malabsorption disorder may result in gradual weight loss and could cause various other symptoms, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, irritability and blood-tinted stools. Talk to your doctor if you suspect your child may have symptoms of a malabsorption disorder.
Diarrhea could lead to dehydration, so watch your toddler carefully if she develops unusual amounts of loose, watery green or yellow stool. Possible signs of dehydration may include decreased wet diapers, sunken eyes, dry mouth or tongue, lack of tears when crying and excessive sleepiness or fatigue. In toddlers, these signs could be dangerous and generally require prompt medical attention. Prevent possible dehydration by providing your diarrhea-stricken toddler with plenty of clear fluids. Oral electrolyte solutions work particularly well, since they provide your child with essential salt, minerals and sugar.
- “Essentials of Pediatric Nursing”; Theresa Kyle, MSN, CPNP; 2007
- “Raising Your Child”; Dr. Michael Roizen & Dr. Mehmet Oz; 2010
- Medline Plus: Viral Gastroenteritis
- “Baby Body Signs”; Joan Liebmann-Smith & Jacqueline Nardi Egan; 2010