Common Health Question
Your GP or another healthcare professional, such as a nurse, should explain how to collect the stool sample. It should be collected in a clean, dry screw-top container.
Your doctor or a member of staff at the hospital will give you a plastic (specimen) container to use, although you can use any clean container as long as you can seal it.
Try not to collect urine or water from the toilet with the stool sample, but don't worry if you do. If you need to urinate, do this first before collecting the stool sample.
To collect a stool sample:
Follow any other instructions your doctor gives you.
Stool samples should be handed in as soon as possible, as some can't be analysed if they've been refrigerated – your doctor will tell you if this is the case.
If you can't hand the stool sample in immediately, you should store it in a fridge, but for no longer than 24 hours. Place the container in a sealed plastic bag first.
Stool samples must be fresh – if they aren't, the bacteria in them can multiply. This means the levels of bacteria in the stool sample won't be the same as the levels of bacteria in your digestive system. If the levels of bacteria don't match, the test results may not be accurate.
If you can't hand your stool sample in immediately, find out how long it can be kept in the fridge. Your GP or the healthcare professional who requested the test will be able to tell you.
Your GP or another healthcare professional may ask you for a stool sample to help them diagnose or rule out a particular health condition.
Stools contain bacteria and other substances that are present in the digestive system.
By testing the levels of these substances and bacteria in your stools, it's possible to work out what's happening in your digestive system.
For example, a stool sample can be tested to help diagnose:
Read the answers to more questions about operations, tests and procedures.