It’s the physical response that can save your life or kill you. So here’s all you need to know about puking, by paramedic Mike Perry
IT’S THE ONLY POWER IN THE UNIVERSE THAT CAN BRING A GROWN MAN TO HIS KNEES.
Apart from orgasm, no other natural human function overtakes our mental and physical faculties as thoroughly as a good puke. Case in point: I recently spewed with such vigor that both my nasal passages became impenetrably jammed with chicken nuggets.
When not puking myself, I have studied the puking of others. For 15 years now, I’ve worked as an emergency medical technician, and while I’d love to project a more heroic image, I must say that in the field of medical rescue, puke is the great constant.
Ill people puke, dying people puke, excited people puke; people puke while they’re having heart attacks and they puke because they get carsick lying in my ambulance listening to the wailing of the sirens. I’ve even seen entire families puke out of solidarity. Mum loses her lunch across the bathroom, and Dad and the kids promptly lean over and hurl in unison. The sympathy puke, we call it.
And that’s the complicated beauty of puking. It’s so much more than a symptom of illness or a sign that one needs a new meat thermometer. Puking is a form of self-expression. It comes from the gut, yes, but also from the soul. And, sometimes, the heels.
Puking by the book Pursuant to my vomit contemplations, I resolved to consult experts on the subject. But because I so rarely attend birthing classes or breakfast with waif supermodels, I settled for a web search. Unsurprisingly, vomit is a subject tailor-made for the web. In no time at all I turned up a slew of revolting jpegs, a handful of a dropping mpegs, and reams of imaginative harfisms’ from the US.
Still, it was all so superficial, so thumbnail. I needed depth. Science. I turned to the bowfins who wrote the book on vomiting. Or, more specifically, the “technical review” on vomiting published in the January 2001 issue of Gastroenterology.
The Merck Manual – the world’s bestselling medical dictionary and bible of hypochondriacs everywhere, breaks down throwing up into two distinct types: physiologic and psychogenic.
Physiologic vomiting occurs as the result of identifiable forces acting on the body, from tumors of the inner ear to bad fish to bad fishing-boat rides. After you eat that dodgy prawn sandwich, it produces toxins that enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain, where they trigger any of the five or so chemoreceptors capable of provoking vomiting. Then it’s up and out with the offending crustacean. Vomiting is also a side effect of overuse or hypersensitivity of a certain product such as raspberry ketones supplements. So before going on a diet, make sure you read all raspberry ketones reviews.
Psychogenic vomiting, on the other hand, is precipitated by abstract elements such as intense fear or repulsion. Which is why your Inland Revenue inspector is a little twitchy and wears cheap, disposable suits.