Updated 04 July 2014

Why was Oscar vomiting?

Oscar Pistorius was vomiting constantly during the pathologist’s testimony in his trial on Monday. After seeing some pictures of Reeva's body, he started vomiting again on Thursday.

Oscar Pistorius vomited the first time in court during the pathologist’s testimony in his trial two weeks ago for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. After seeing some pictures of Reeva's body he started vomiting again Tuesday when pictures were flashed on screen in court.

The pathologist originally apparently provided the court with graphic descriptions of Reeva Steenkamp's injuries. He requested that this not be broadcast as it was not in the public interest, out of respect for the family, and for Steenkamp's dignity.

Pistorius's lawyer asked that proceedings not be halted because of the vomiting two weeks ago. The accused had then been provided with a plastic container.

Read: Reading the stains - how blood spatter analysis works

What are the things that cause us to vomit?

Some of the main causes of vomiting are gastro-intestinal diseases such as gastritis, peptic ulcers, or chemicals or toxins (which can include bacterial or viral infections) of some sort, such as salmonella or certain drugs or hormones.

But nausea and vomiting have many possible causes, and are not always related to disease of the gastro-intestinal tract. Vomiting can also be stimulated by severe pain or shock or by unpleasant smells or pictures. Stress and anxiety can certainly trigger both nausea and vomiting, and can also cause dry heaving.

Anxiety and nervousness cause an increase in acid in the stomach and digestive tract, which can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea. Headaches, body aches, panic attacks are all examples of stress manifesting physically.

Nausea is an unpleasant feeling in the pit of the stomach that one is about to vomit. Vomiting is a reflex where the vomiting centre in the brain tells the intestines to reverse their peristaltic movements in order to force the contents of the stomach out through the mouth.

Psychogenic or functional nausea and vomiting have many causes and can occur in different ways. This kind of vomiting happens either voluntarily or involuntarily.

For instance a person can start vomiting involuntarily in a very stressful situation. On the other hand, some people deliberately induce vomiting to gain something like sympathy, or to get out of a difficult situation.

“The intensity of emotions can send our body into overdrive, producing immediate gastrointestinal distress – stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea “, says Tracy A. Dennis, PhD, associate professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College, the City University of New York.

What can be done to treat nausea?

There are numerous preparations available over the counter for the treatment of nausea and vomiting. It is most important to try and keep up the body’s supply of water by taking in as much clear fluid as possible.

Rehydration liquids are an excellent choice, as they also contain electrolytes. This is usually only necessary if someone vomits more than once or the nausea persists for a day or two.

In the case of infants, dehydration is a real danger, and it is best to visit the doctor as soon as possible.


(Compiled by Susan Erasmus)

Read more:
What the police psychologist is looking for
CyberShrink's analysis: Why Oscar Pistorius deserves to be on TV
Oscar trial: who stole the show?

Bloodspatter analysis - how it works


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