High Altitude Gas HAG or HAFE

high altitude flatus expulsion hafe

High altitude flatus expulsion (HAFE) or high altitude gas (HAG) was no joke when flatlanders visited at my neighbor’s place last weekend.

Seriously, I had to go outside when the whole crew began tooting and was amazed that the air didn’t change to a vile olive green fog.


Personally, I just thought it was bad manners but since the whole dang household was in trouble (the crew had a bean dish earlier in the day) and claimed it wasn’t their fault, I had to look it up.

Sure enough, there it was listed, in all its official glory, High Altitude Flatus Expulsion in the High Altitude Medicine & Biology (the Journal of International Society of Mountain Medicine ISMM).

More commonly called “High Altitude Gas” (or “Barking Spiders”) by mountain sports activists, I don’t ever remember having this problem and so believe the entire group was trying to get by with that bad behavior by distracting me into another binge of investigative reporting.

It worked.

I mean how could you not look this up? Then I had to wonder–who the heck actually came up with the term?

Since I knew you would want to know, the condition was first described by Joseph Hamel circa 1820.

Then in 1969, high altitude gas was covered in an article in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

However HAFE wasn’t popularized until in 1981 when Paul Auerbach and York Miller wrote about it in the Western Journal of Medicine.

Now when you start digging around about such things, it is always interesting to see what you find. Never mind the ISMM, there are a whole bunch of societies that actually focus on such odd bodily functions and unique medical issues that happen in the back country, wilderness, on expeditions or at high altitude.

The official HAFE syndrome happens during “…ascent and is characterized by an increase in both the volume and the frequency of the passage of flatus.

So basically, as the surrounding air pressure drops, there is less resistance and this results in gas expulsion or flatulence.

This makes sense if you think about the plastic packages and bottles that inflate and deflate as you travel up and down the mountain–it illustrates just how this principle can work in your body.

However, you can read an interesting explanation about HAT (high altitude tooting) by someone else who did a bit of research on this topic as well.

Guess I am not the only one that does such amazing investigative, ahem, reporting.

And just in case you want to know a little more about flatulence…

The major components of the flatus, which are odorless, by percentage are:

  • Nitrogen: 20–90%
  • Hydrogen: 0–50%
  • Carbon dioxide: 10–30%
  • Oxygen: 0–10%
  • Methane: 0–10%

I won’t get into the stinky aspects of this condition–I mean a gal’s gotta have some restraint!

Photo Credits:

  • No Farting Sign via Keamy Sparadise
  • Public Domain Image (1545) The Papal Belvedere (Flatulent Peasants)

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2 Responses to “High Altitude Gas HAG or HAFE

  • 1
    August 24th, 2011 06:59

    The condition you have described has been long known, and should come as no surprise.
    It started in 1776. A group of locals to the East Coast, got together and formed a government. That was the first know incident known in the America’s.
    Since then the illness has moved westward.
    Sacramento, CA. was notably one of the worst outbreaks known to man.
    In more recent history, the mountain area off Big Bear has become one of the most infected regions of the country.
    Twice a month, (or more) the CSD and the City Councils meet. They let of some of the worst hot air known to man, and the stench is beyond belief.
    Every two years, others of the valley try to change that condition. Alas, if appointed to office, they too are found to suffer the same fate.
    There is a new organization that has been created to help these poor souls. Flatulent List Of Politicians (FLOP)

  • 2
    GG (Gossip Girl)
    August 26th, 2011 21:05

    LOL Thanks for sharing this vital, eh, err, tidbit.