The thought of releasing of noxious gas on a plane may be an unsettling to flyers, but according to an article in the New Zealand Medical Journal, it's something that passengers are encouraged to do when they're up in the air. The article, published last Friday, suggests that flying increases flatulence due to a change in pressure and that it does the body good to pass the gas.
There's a certain science behind it, but the Cole's notes version goes something like this: the higher a person is above sea level, the less pressure there is. A drop in pressure means an increase in volume. Anyone who's seen a movie set on a plane knows the cabin of a plane is pressurized to keep things levelled. But as NBC News puts it, the amount of pressurization used when flying at 33,000 feet in the air still feels like the body is 8,000 feet above sea level, resulting in that bloated feeling.
Now, years of societal norms may have passengers thinking that if you're feeling gassy, it's the polite thing to hold it in. But according to the study, that may have dire consequences, like discomfort, indigestion, pain and stress, according to CBS News. So what's a passenger supposed to do?
"Just let it go," say researchers.
Ideally, "letting it go" also means finding an unoccupied lavatory first, but as Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert, tells Huffington Post Canada Travel, that may not always be viable.
"In the best possible world, it's always a top priority to make those around us feel comfortable so you're going to excuse yourself to use the lavatory. Now we know that that doesn't always happen. Do you call someone out on it? No," says Gottsman.
Gottsman sayes the seatmates of gassy passengers shouldn't be overly judgmental but instead, cut some slack for those who may have cut the cheese.
"Sometimes we really need to give a fellow passenger a break. Once you call them out then you're putting yourself in a situation. Who is to say you absolutely know? The courteous thing to do is to redirect your attention somewhere else," says Gottsman.
As for the self-conscious flyers, the study comes with suggestions on how to avoid a stink over making a stink, notes the Sydney Morning Herald.
For more suggestions on airline etiquette when it comes to bodily functions, check out the gallery below. Slideshow text follows for mobile readers:
For passengers who've had a history of stomach problems, Gottsman suggests being proactive with your condition and investing in Tums or anti-bloating medication. Once on board the plane, Gottsman suggests playing things safe with food and turning down items that may result in a gassy situation like the tuna tartare, peanuts and shrimp.
Gottsman says that the rule of thumb is that you never "attend to general bodily function in public" and that includes scratching. However, if there's an itch and you can get away with scratching it by discretely rubbing your back against your seat, it may be easier just to get it over with. However, if it's something that requires a back-scratcher, you may have bigger issues to worry about than a peeved seatmate.
As with farting, it's best to just to let it out instead of holding it in. And like any other situation, it's best to cover your mouth with your left hand (Gottsman says the right should reserved for handshakes and touching items) and follow up with an "excuse me".
Sneezes happen, but if you're a serial sneezer, packing a handkerchief or a pack of tissues is smart. Hand sanitizer or disinfectant towelettes are also a good idea to soothe any nearby hypochondriacs.
Coughs can cause concern, so Gottsman suggests being prepared and packing cough drops. Like burping and sneezing, Gottsman suggests coughing into the left hand or elbow and following up with hand sanitizer is always appreciated.