New York

‘Carolina Reaper' Sends Man in New York to Hospital With Fiery Thunderclap Headaches

What to Know

  • An unidentified man ate world's hottest chili during contest in NY and developed intense headaches, dry heaving and head and neck pains
  • He ended up going to the ER and was diagnosed with having a narrowing of the carotid artery and vessels in the brain, a medical journal says
  • This is the first case of pepper causing this physical reaction in the brain, according to the report

There is reason to fear the reaper, in this case the Carolina Reaper — reportedly the hottest pepper in the world.

An unidentified 34-year-old man ate the hot chili during a contest in New York. He developed a series of intense headaches, dry heaving and excruciating pain in his head and neck in the following days, which sent him to the emergency room, according to the journal BMJ Case Reports.

At first doctors were not sure what was causing the symptoms since the patient did not have slurred speech, muscle weakness or vision loss commonly associated with a stroke. A blood clot or a brain hemorrhage were also ruled out.

However, a CT angiogram of the brain’s blood vessels did reveal something peculiar — a noticeable narrowing of the left internal carotid artery and four blood vessels supplying the brain, which also results in a thunderclap headaches — sudden and acute severe headaches. These symptoms lead the doctors to diagnose the patient with reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome, or RCVS.

The narrowing of the carotid artery and vessels and the accompanying thunderclap headache resolves within a few days to weeks, according to the report, which adds that RCVS can occur without an identifiable cause or as a reaction to certain medications and illicit drugs.

According to the journal’s report, the patient’s “symptoms improved with supportive care, he had no further thunderclap headaches, and a repeat CT angiography five weeks later" showed he no longer had narrowing" of the artery or blood vessels in the brain.

There have been no reported cases of this medical episode taking place after eating peppers or cayenne, “but ingestion of cayenne pepper has been associated with coronary vasospasm and acute myocardial infraction,” the report says, adding it is believed this is the first documented case of hot peppers causing vasoconstriction in the brain.

The Carolina Reaper, grown by Ed Currie of PuckerButt Pepper Company, was dubbed the hottest chili in the world by the Guinness World Records. It rates an average of 1,641,183 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), according to studies by Winthrop University in South Carolina.

By comparison, a regular jalapeno comes in at about 8,000 SHU.

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