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Stools - foul smelling

  • Definition
    • Foul-smelling stools are stools with a very bad odor. They very often have to do with what you eat, but may be a sign of a medical condition.

  • Alternative Names
    • Foul-smelling stools

  • Considerations
    • Stools normally have an unpleasant odor. Most of the time the odor is familiar. Stools that have an extremely bad, abnormal odor may be due to certain medical conditions. Foul-smelling stools also have normal causes, such as diet changes.

  • Common Causes
  • Home Care
    • Home care depends on what is causing the problem. Things you can do include:

      • Follow your health care provider's instructions.
      • If you have been given a special diet, stick to it closely.
      • If you have diarrhea, drink more fluids so you do not get dehydrated.
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Call your health care provider if you have:

      • Black or pale stools
      • Blood in the stool
      • Changes in the stool related to diet
      • Chills
      • Cramping
      • Fever
      • Pain in the abdomen
      • Weight loss
  • What to Expect at Your Office Visit
    • Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Questions may include:

      • When did you first notice the change?
      • Are the stools an abnormal color (such as pale or clay-colored stools)?
      • Are your stools hard to flush?
      • What sort of diet have you eaten recently?
      • Does a change in your diet make the smell worse or better?
      • What other symptoms do you have?

      The doctor may take a stool sample. Other tests may be needed.

  • References
    • McQuaid KR. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 134.