Although stools (faeces or poo) can vary, you should pay attention to what your stools look like. This will help you notice if your stools change. Stool changes in adults can suggest a medical condition and may need further investigation by your doctor.
What are stool changes?
Normally, stools are soft, sausage-shaped and easy to pass. It should take about a minute to empty your bowel.
Changes to take note of might include the time it takes to empty your bowels, seeing blood or worms in your stools, or changes in:
Changes in stool colour
In adults, stools are normally light to dark brown. The colour depends on what you eat and drink, medications, and time food has spent in your digestive system.
Some foods (such as beetroot) can affect stool colour, but if your stools are black or very light grey or pale, you should visit your doctor.
Changes in stool texture
Checking your stool’s texture is important. Stools can vary from loose to hard. If you eat foods high in fibre and drink plenty of water, your stools should stay a healthy texture.
If you have diarrhoea or constipation for more than 2 to 3 days, or you find blood in your stools, see your doctor.
Blood in stool
If you notice blood on the toilet paper after a bowel motion, it is often due to haemorrhoids or small tears around your anus (fissures). It's best to see your doctor to check the cause of the bleeding.
If you have large amounts of blood in your stools, or your stools look black and tarry, see your doctor right away. If you see lots of blood and feel faint, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
Worms in stools
Worms is a term used for a range of parasites that can affect your digestive tract. If you become infected, the eggs travel to your bowels where they hatch into worms. Sometimes you can see them on the stool.
The most common symptom of worms is itching around your anus. Worms are easily treated by your doctor.
Learn more about the types of worms that can cause problems in humans.
Stool changes in children
Examining your children’s stools is a good way to check on your children’s health.
Stool changes in babies and children are different to those in adults. If children are well, changes may be due to diet. However, take your child to a doctor if they have ongoing diarrhoea, or are jaundiced with pale stools.
Visit the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website to learn more about jaundice in babies.
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Last reviewed: February 2020