Updated 13 December 2019

Why do you sometimes fart when you cough?

It's not like the chicken or the egg situation: you definitely cough first – followed by a fart.

Most of us have been in that awkward situation: You'll be talking to your friends, when suddenly you start coughing – nothing unusual about that.

But then, out of the blue, a fart slips out! Without any encouragement on your part your body automatically pushes out a fart in answer to a cough. Embarrassed by your body’s unexpected “malfunction”, you drop your head in shame and wonder how your throat, lungs and anus can be so intimately connected.

Read: Get rose-scented farts this Valentine's Day

Why we fart

Well, science has an answer. First it is important to know why and how we fart.

It all starts with eating and breathing. When we eat, breathe and talk we inevitably gulp air as well. That air has to exit the body in some way or another.

According to the John Hopkins University, it's perfectly normal to swallow air while breathing and eating, but it is also easy to swallow a lot more air than usual, and this can cause flatulence (the accumulation of gas in the alimentary canal).

Some foods that contain a high amount of unabsorbable carbohydrates, such as beans, broccoli and onions can increase the amount of gas in your digestive tract.

Read: Got gas? Get a grip on it now

The link to cough

“Coughing causes increased intra-abdominal pressure which will expel gas, already in the rectum,” says Dr Danie Pauw from Health24. Basically the pressure of the cough releases the gas that's already present.

“Another reason is that cough increases peristalsis of the intestines which move flatus towards the anal canal.

"Chronic cough might impair the pelvic floor muscles which are important in sphincter (a ring of muscle surrounding and serving to guard or close an opening or tube, such as the anus or the openings of the stomach) action.” This will reduce your ability to hold in a fart.

Read more: 

Farting on flights, is it OK?

Cookie fart

Why human species fart


Ask the Expert

Cough Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules