What to Do When Someone Passes Gas or Burps

Men in elevator

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Whether you or someone around you lets out a burp or other embarrassing sound, it's often uncomfortable for everyone. Most people have experienced the uncomfortable situation of someone accidentally passing gas or letting out a loud belch in a roomful of people. It creates one of those awkward moments where no one knows what to do, where to look, or what to say.

Always remember that this moment will pass and be forgotten by all but the person it happened to, so don't make a big deal of it. Otherwise, the situation intensifies and gets even more embarrassing.

There is just something about the sound of passing gas that makes most people naturally want to laugh. When you are out in public, you might cringe when someone else lets out a noise that would have you running away in embarrassment.

Inside your private home and among your family you will and may continue to handle these situations in the same way you always have. After all, these people will love you no matter what, so you can let your guard down without embarrassment.

Realize, however, that children take their cues from the adults in their lives, so you may want to establish some guidelines and lead by example as early in their lives as possible. Have a discussion with your children about what is or isn't appropriate in public.

What to Do

Passing gas is a normal body function. That said, in American culture, it is considered rude behavior in polite company. 

When in the company of friends, associates, or strangers it is best to ignore any obvious flatulence. This would include belching or burping. Most people know to say excuse me if they burp or belch loudly, but passing gas has more of a stigma and is a little trickier to navigate. If someone has passed gas and the smell is overwhelming, you need not mention it or comment.

If you are unable to stand the smell or feel you may embarrass the person any more than he or she already is, then excuse yourself from the room for a moment, breathe some fresh air, and compose yourself before returning. Try to be as inconspicuous as possible when you leave and avoid making a big deal of it.

If you are the person with gas you should try to hold it if possible until you can get to the restroom, outdoors, or at least away from others. If you happen to have a slip that everyone hears, you may want to say something like, "Please excuse me," or, "I apologize. It seems my stomach is upset."

What to Say

Any body function noise can embarrass someone, so do your best to ignore it and move on. However, if the person apologizes or says, "Excuse me," accept the apology with as few words as possible and move on. You may simply offer a nod or say something like, "Yes, of course."

Never make a rude comment that might embarrass or humiliate the person. Resist the urge to make a joke or go on and on about the situation, no matter how great the temptation is. Chances are, the person is embarrassed enough without additional comments.

Personal Responsibility

If you are prone to digestive problems that may make you need to burp or pass gas, avoid the foods that typically cause a problem. Another thing you might want to consider is carrying a digestive product or natural food enzymes for times when your system might betray you and create an awkward moment.

Gas-Producing Foods

There are certain common foods you might want to avoid if you are going to be in a public, social, or professional setting where a loud digestive noise might embarrass you. These include but are not limited to broccoli, beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, apples, pears, and carbonated drinks. Sometimes even chewing gum can cause gas if you swallow air while you chew.

If you are at a dinner where gas-producing foods are being served, chew them thoroughly and eat slowly to minimize the discomfort and likelihood of embarrassing yourself. Don't feel as though you have to eat every last bite.

Prevent the Embarrassment of Others

If someone who is with you passes gas or burps, avoid the urge to laugh or make a comment. Sometimes a nervous laugh might escape. If this happens, clear your throat and change the subject. It's easier to steer the conversation toward a less embarrassing topic than sit there quietly as you try to force yourself not to notice the situation.