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Stool Culture

How It Is Done

Stool samples can be collected at home, in your doctor's office, at a medical clinic, or at the hospital. If you collect the samples at home, you may be given a special container.

You may need to collect more than one sample. Follow the same procedure for each sample.

Collect the sample as follows:

  • Urinate before collecting the stool so that you do not get any urine in the stool sample. Do not urinate while passing the stool.
  • Put on gloves before handling your stool. Stool can contain germs that spread infection. Wash your hands after you remove your gloves.
  • Pass stool (but no urine) into a dry container. You may be given a plastic basin that can be placed under the toilet seat to catch the stool.
    • Either solid or liquid stool can be collected.
    • If you have diarrhea, a large plastic bag taped to the toilet seat may make the collection process easier; the bag is then placed in a plastic container.
    • If you are constipated, you may be given a small enema.
    • Do not collect the sample from the toilet bowl.
    • Do not mix toilet paper, water, or soap with the sample.
  • Place the lid on the container and label it with your name, your doctor's name, and the date the stool was collected. If you are collecting more than one sample, use one container for each sample, and collect a sample only once a day unless your doctor gives you other directions.

Take the sealed container to your doctor's office or the laboratory as soon as possible. You may need to deliver your sample to the lab within a certain time. Tell your doctor if you think you may have trouble getting the sample to the lab on time.

You may need to collect several stool samples over 7 to 10 days if you have digestive symptoms after traveling outside the country.

Samples from babies and young children may be collected from diapers (if the stool is not contaminated with urine) or from a small-diameter glass tube inserted into the baby's rectum while the baby is held on an adult's lap.

Sometimes a stool sample is collected using a rectal swab that contains a preservative. The swab is inserted into the rectum, rotated gently, and then withdrawn. It is placed in a clean, dry container and sent to the lab right away.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 07, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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