How do you tell someone they smell?

Ok, I need an etiquette lesson. There is a guy who sits in the row in front of me in class that likes to …ummm… fart. It started a few months ago and we weren’t sure who the culprit was (SBD’s, you know). But we narrowed it down to one particular person. He does it every 15-20 minutes and they are NASTY. The girl next to me abandoned me and moved to another seat. I like where I sit and I don’t want to move. I just want him to take some Beano or something. I don’t think he is aware that we can smell it (or how incredibly stinky it is!).
So, how would you break the news? A note in his mailbox? Beano or GasX on his seat? Just come out and say it?

Pam -
OMG, Let me get this rant off my chest first: WHO IN PETE’S NAME DOESN’T REALIZE THEY ARE CUTTING THE CHEESE??? I mean for crying out loud, it’s not as subtle as if he is eating food that causes you to smell(lots of garlic/cabbage) or that he simply has halitosis, or comes from a culture where showering/deodorant habits are different than in America (I have NEVER heard of a culture that condones open farting!!)
That being said, before you leave a BAG/WHEELBARROW of Bean-O/Gas-X for “fart-man”, give diplomacy a shot – no one likes to be embarrassed. Does he have some buddies that can confront him with this? If not, then go ahead and mention it to him. If indeed “fart-man” is deliberately provoking you guys, and doesn’t stop, you may need the help of the Dean of Students or something.

As the only girl in a family of boys (my first 18 years spent in a headlock, I kid you not), a couple possibilties come to mind.
1. Run by farting… He’s doing it on purpose to be funny
2. He’s “letting them go” because “silent but deadly” is funny.
or last
He has IBS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative colitis etc and can’t help it.
May the fart er I mean the force be with you.

Meredith has a point with the possibility of a GI problem. I suffer from ulcerative colitis, and when I am in a flare up, I have HORRIBLE gas. It is difficult to excuse yourself because you have gas so often, that you would spend all of your time in the rest room.
On the flipside though, even if it is a legit medical problem, I think there are medications that would relieve some of the symptoms. I know if I was experiencing that problem, I would do everything I could to remedy it. You can only delude yourself for so long that no one will figure out who it is.
This is a tough problem to approach. Sorry I don’t have any advice for you, other than slipping him a note about anti-gas meds.
Good luck!

Of course, you could always say to the person sitting next to you, in a voice loud enough for fart-man to hear, “who the hell keeps farting, we need to find out who it is.” Most likely others around you feel the same way, and you may get a few, 'ya really, who is it" replies. Then if he keeps it up, then you could place the beano or a pamphlet/paper on ulcerative colitis on his desk. If all that fails, then you could go to the dean. You can now show him/her that you did due diligence in trying to correct the problem on your own with out success.

Hi there,
You pull the guy aside and politely explain that his flatus is very disturbing to your study. Offer some assistance if needed as he may have a physical reason for the excessive intestinal gas and not know that there are pharmaceutical remedies for this problem.
As a physician, you are going to have to tell people about all sorts of things that may be embarassing to both them and you. Your classmate may respond better if you approach him business-like and very clinical.
On the other hand, if he is just lacking in social graces i.e. “born in a barn”, he might be surprised and really believe that he isn’t disturbing anyone with his behavior. He might just believe that no one notices. In this case, you are doing him a favor by telling him.

I had been in a similar situation MANY years ago. I was in Army basic training and one of the girls in my squad had, shall we say, less than stellar hygiene habits. She never showered or washed her hair. She didn’t bring with her any soap, shampoo, or anything for basic hygiene. I went to our drill sargeant and presented the problem to him. He suggested that a group of us gather the necessary items and present them to her and if necessary, show her how to use them. (We had the general impression that she hadn’t even been taught basic hygiene.) Yes, it was an embarrassing situation for all involved, but we did it with kindness and without judgement. And it solved the problem. She still ended up getting a discharge - she just really wasn’t cut out for the Army.

I agree with Nat. There will many times as physician that you will have to discuss senitive issues with patients. In addition, as a resident or staff physician you will need to provide feedback to learners (both positive and negative). Here at Mayo, we just had an excellent faculty development lecture on humanism and professionalism in medicine and providing feedback.

Interestingly, when I was teaching typing in a proprietary school, I had to tell one of my students she smelled. I was as tactful as I could possibly be, I thought, but she never came back.
On the other hand, I had already figured out she didn’t want to be there in the first place.

I beg to differ with you on a culture that condones open farting!! And that country is…Bangladesh. When I traveled there with my husband to visit his relatives, the “dinner table” (actually a cloth on the floor) time was continuously punctuated with both burps and farts, and not just from the guys either.


the “dinner table” (actually a cloth on the floor) time was continuously punctuated with both burps and farts, and not just from the guys either

Kathy –
I guess I stand corrected !! Still, it WAS dinner, and I doubt that they condone farting in a classroom…but I guess it’s possible. Thanks for sharing !!

I would squirt some air freshener right into the offensive cloud. Psssssssssssssssssssst!!!
aka Glade stock owner (just kidding)

Me, being the gentle & most empathetic of individuals, would graciously & politely entone, “Hey Dude, was that just a fart or did you [censored] in your britches!” Such a subtle & diplomatic approach will surely heighten his awareness & encourage auto-intervention.

Ok, you guys are cracking me up. I think I may have worked out a solution. I asked the guy who sits next to him (I sit in the row behind) to tell him to stop farting. He’s a guy, and isn’t so tortured by the social graces (he once told farty guy to “shut the f*** up” during lecture ).
So, there have been no farts this week. Yay! But I will definitely keep these delicate and not-so-delicate ideas in mind when the next situation comes up.
I think this thread has generated more replies than anything I ever posted before. Lol.

NOT FAIR!! I can’t laugh out loud while at work!!!

Whatever happened to the FART guy??? I guess you’re not still in class with him, but I’m curious as to what transpired??? Inquiring minds just want to know the dirty details… hehehe…
Seriously though, this is a difficult issue… One more problem some folks with the farts have is lactose intolerance… Frankness in private is my solution to most such things, but some folks will attack you if you confront them in ANY forum, no matter how kindly…

There’s also a fart thread over on, something about cutting one in the midst of a med school interview. It’s just too bad that our society has to be so hung up over a basic (and necessary) bodily function.
But, yeah, it’s got to be distracting during class.
Maybe he eats low carb chocolate. That stuff has maltitol in it which really fires up your afterburner.