Published: Tue, April 10, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Super-hot chili pepper sends man to the hospital with "thunderclap" headaches

Super-hot chili pepper sends man to the hospital with

The 34-year-old man told doctors he'd eaten a Carolina Reaper chilli after he presented to the Bassett Medical Center's emergency room, in the USA state of NY, with excruciating pain. A computed tomography (CT) scan, however, revealed that several of the arteries leading to his brain were constricted.

He ended up in a NY state hospital with "excruciatingly painful episodic headaches" after eating a "Carolina Reaper", according to a new study in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

Immediately after eating the pepper, the man experienced dry heaves; he then developed intense pain in his neck and back of his head. Over the next few days he suffered thunderclap headaches, with excruciating pain that eventually sent him to the emergency room.

A brain scan five weeks later showed his arteries had returned to normal.

Boddhula and colleagues diagnosed a condition known as reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS).

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In Figure A, a CT scan shows narrowed arteries in the brain of a man who ate the world's hottest chili pepper.

"Given the development of symptoms immediately after exposure to a known vasoactive substance, it is plausible that our patient had RCVS secondary to the 'Carolina Reaper, '" the doctors concluded.

He then developed crushingly painful headaches and at one point he made a decision to go to the emergency room. Reached by phone at the PuckerButt Pepper Co.in Fort Mill, S.C., the Reapers creator, Ed Currie, offered mixed advice on pepper consumption. So in addition to making your mouth burn and turning you into a teary-eyed, snotty mess, extremely hot peppers may have more serious health consequences.

"It was a big surprise to everyone", said doctor Kulothungan Gunasekaran of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, one of the authors of the article that warns of the dangers of playing with chilli fire.

It happens instantaneously. If that kind of headache hits you, it makes sense to seek medical attention "whether youve bitten into a pepper or not", Newman said.

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Although a situation like this is rare and possibly the first to be documented, it is important to note that it is possible, said Gunasekaran, who co-authored a description of the man's symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and followup that was published Monday in BMJ Case Reports.

Gunasekaran also said that this is the first time that chili pepper has been related to RCVS.

For the average person interested in spice, not suffering, he advised using small amounts of any really hot pepper in food preparation, as they were intended.

In this case, the patient's symptoms improved, and he was released from the hospital after a few days.

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