No One Asked Me: Farting in Public

I’m a guy and I try my very best to not fart at all because if I did in around anyone, I’d be so humiliated I’d probably never come to school again or never go where I did again. Especially if someone was close and may have heard. Is it unhealthy to hold in farts? Do you guys think it feels good to fart? I’m sorry, I know it’s a disgusting question but I’m just curious on what you guys think of it.

-Anonymous Teen

Found at Yahoo Answers

Alright AT,  I’m gonna skip over some of the touchy feely does-farting-feel-good stuff here, and go straight for the crux of the matter: it’s not going to hurt your health to hold in farts, but it might give you a few cramps and be kind of uncomfortable.

I’m not letting you off that easily though, because I’m a little concerned about your anxiety level here. No one’s saying you have to be Peter Griffin, but  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of someone being this concerned about farting in public1.  Would it make you feel better if we ran some numbers here?  That always calms me down.

The simplest way of drawing out your fears is through a Venn diagram, like this:


My circles aren’t great. I need a compass.

In other words, you’re not scared of farting, you’re not scare of being in public, you’re scared of farting AND being in public at the same time.

So the first thing we have to do is to assess the scope of the problem aka the size of the circles.  For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to assume that other than the anxiety you’re  healthy.  If you read anything here that makes you think you are farting more often or with a worse smell than what’s normal, you may want to talk to your doctor.  Alright, let’s start with the farting.   Now the average person is going to fart about 10-20 times in a 24 hour period, with at least some of those coming at night.  In this study, the median number during waking hours was 8, so lets start with that.  This works out to about one fart for every two hours of wakefulness.  However, that same study told us that it’s very likely this isn’t spread out evenly.  You’re more likely to fart in the hour after you eat.  So what would happen if we drew out a little table of what a hypothetical day of farting might looking like?  Well, in stats we call this a probability density function or PDF, and we can draw it like this:

All the values should be multiplied by 8, if that's the average we're rolling with here.

All the values should be multiplied by 8 to get the total per hour, if that’s the average we’re rolling with here.

If you’d like some better data, you can track yourself for a few days and see if you have any unique patterns.  In a case study about a terribly unfortunate man who was farting 30-130 times a day, his journal looked like this2.  Now this may be segmented out a little too much to be useful, so lets collapse that down a bit:


Red = Danger danger Will Robinson

So if you follow this schedule, we’re looking at 6 or 7 farts in public.

Now a few things jump out at me here.  The first is that spike in the morning could definitely be moved a bit if you ate breakfast earlier, causing that first wave to happen before you get to school.  Also, there’s some evidence we could mitigate that spike after lunch if you started trying to avoid having gas producing foods.  Another tip from that list is to avoid gum or soda all day, as those can both lead to farting3.  If you want to get even better, you could make sure you wander off by yourself for a bit right after dinner.

Making those changes, we can shift the brackets in a bit, and we may be down to dealing with only 4 or 5, most right after lunch. Nice!  Now you’re dealing with a lot less stress, and you have some idea about when you might need to run to the bathroom or use one of these tricks to hide the sound or these pads to hide the smell.

Good luck.


1. Not gonna name names or anything, but there’s a few people in my life I might like you to talk to when we’re done here.
2. Spoiler alert: don’t go to his house around 8am.
3. The fact that you might be able to control this a bit is good news for you, but it’s why I couldn’t assume independence and thus use a Poisson distribution which sucks because I LOVE POISSON DISTRIBUTIONS.