Can you catch COVID-19 from a fart?

Staying Safe Uncertainty and Misinformation

A: TL;DR. Unlikely.

It’s been a while since we’ve had novel fart and poop content on Dear Pandemic, so let’s address this classic question about the risk of catching COVID-19 from a fart.

In April 2020, when the pandemic was fresh and many of us were hoarding toilet paper, there were several articles flying around the internet suggesting that farting may be a viable source of COVID-19 transmission. Here are some relevant facts that are sure to bring giggles to a bunch of elementary school children:

• The average person farts between 5 and 25 times a day! And the volume of air from an individual fart ranges between enough to fill a nail polish bottle to a can of soda.

• The SARS-CoV-2 virus can be detected in fecal matter, even among asymptomatic individuals. And unfortunately, fecal matter can be found in farts, which are aerosol-generating events (like coughs and sneezes). So that’s the hypothesized pathway…

• However, in 2001, a gassy pantless scientist farted into a petri dish to see if bacteria would grow, and sure enough clumps of bacteria did develop. But never fear, when the same scientist was wearing pants and farted directly into a separate petri dish, no bacteria grew. While this study was conducted long before COVID-19 was a concern, it provides some relief that that the risk of catching COVID-19 from a fart is overblown, so to speak.

• To date, there is no evidence that traces of feces passed in gas is responsible for the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

BOTTOM LINE: Keep your pants on, folks. And don’t worry about spreading COVID-19 through your farts. But you should always keep checking your facts!

Thanks to Janie from Greenlawn, NY, for asking us this question on behalf of a friend!


Further Reading and Fun Fart Facts

Can Farts Transmit COVID-19 Coronavirus? (Forbes)

Fact Check: We Know About Coughs and Sneezes. But Can COVID-19 Spread Through Farts? (USA Today)

Science Question from a Toddler: How Big Is a Fart? (FiveThirtyEight)