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Home / Health & Science

Why you throw up on long safaris

Health & ScienceBy Rosa Agutu | Mon,Dec 13 2021 03:30:00 UTC | 3 min read

 

If you vomit or spot someone in a session of discomfiture, just know that it is the brain trying to save a life. [Courtesy]

The festive season is here when social media is awash with travelling updates and pictures of holiday locations. However, it is not so rosy for people suffering from motion sickness, swollen legs and throwing up from vehicle windows when they travel.

Grace Akoth, a receptionist in Nairobi, says, “I never enjoy travelling, I get terribly sick, and only feel better two days after travelling.”

If you vomit or spot someone in a session of discomfiture, just know that it is the brain trying to save a life by making someone think they’re being poisoned, would you believe it?

It so happens that when you are walking, all parts of the body sense and are in agreement there is movement and the brain is cool with that. But when in a car, flight or ship, the body is motionless, but your eyes could be moving while reading something; a book, magazine, forwarded phone messages or when playing video games.

In this case, the three body parts involved in movement are the eyes, inner ear and sensory nerves, which send mixed signals to the brain, confusing it. This is because to the inner ear, your eye movement makes the brain to think there is something in your system that is not right, leading to vomiting to get rid of the ‘poison’.

Dr Symon Kariuki, a neurologist, says nausea leading to vomiting is caused by sudden changes in balance as the brain also communicates directly with the gut.

 

Nausea leading to vomiting is caused by sudden changes in balance. [Courtesy]

“In the ear, there are some structures that sense balance and if that can change very suddenly, somebody could have that effect. You know the brain communicates with the gut,” says Dr Kariuki, adding that a troubled brain sends signals to the stomach the same way a troubled stomach sends signals to the brain.  

But if you feel like vomiting while reading in a car, just look out the window and you will feel relieved. When the eyes see moving buildings and trees, the inner ear will signal the brain that everything is okay and that you are alright.

Then there are those who suffer swollen feet during long journeys, like Mercy Nimo, 30, whose shoes hardly fit after a journey.

“If you see me after a trip you would be forgiven to think that I am pregnant or have a severe foot disease. My legs look like mandazi,” says Nimo.  

Experts say legs swell during long periods of immobility due to blood pooling in the leg veins. Part of the pooled blood also passes into the surrounding soft tissues of the lower legs, and results in swelling.

The swelling is harmless, however, there are preventive measures like getting an aisle seat with more legroom, making it easier to get up and walk around.

Travellers should also wear proper footwear and compression socks. Avoid normal socks that constrict above the ankle. Besides short walks inside the bus, train or plane, massaging the feet also works wonders and “don’t cross your legs. Your circulation is already slow when you’re sitting for hours.”

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