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If you burp, fart, and sneeze at the same time, will you die?

Dear Cecil:

Several of our patients have told us of their fear that if they burp, fart, and sneeze simultaneously they will die. Like so many other areas of concern to the general public, this topic was inadequately covered, if at all, in our medical education. Furthermore, many of us have experienced the simultaneous occurrence of two of these physiological events (Tim Allen, personal communication). The law of averages suggests for some of us a triple event (the "Big One"?) may eventually occur. If it were to be accompanied by sudden death, this would be a subject of legitimate anxiety. Thank you for your attention to this question.

Richard Levenson, MD, Mark Swaim, MD, PhD, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina

Illustration by Slug Signorino

Cecil replies:

Don’t mention it.

Stop the Presses

Dear Cecil:

I have burped, farted, and sneezed at the same time, and I am still alive.

— Dan Povenmire, Los Angeles

Dear Cecil:

Doctors Levinson and Swain’s patients are suffering from a trauma caused by National Lampoon in the early 70s, in whose pages there was a High Flying Rumors Contest. First prize was awarded to the following: “If you burp, fart, and sneeze at the same time, you will die.” Although I’ve kept this information in memory with my tongue firmly planted in cheek, I suspect that some other Lampoon readers took it as gospel. I myself have used this information as way of breaking the ice at parties but never did I dream it would become legend.

— Randy S. Lavine, Culver City, California

Cecil Adams

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