Published: Tue, April 10, 2018
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Man who ate 'Carolina Reaper' chilli rushed to hospital with 'thunderclap headaches'

Man who ate 'Carolina Reaper' chilli rushed to hospital with 'thunderclap headaches'

A man bit off more than he could chew when he tackled the world's hottest chili, the so-called "Carolina Reaper", and was left with excruciating headaches.

The 34-year-old needed emergency treatment for "thunderclap" headaches after trying the Carolina Reaper during a hot pepper contest.

As a result, he was diagnosed with reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS), said to be caused by the hot pepper.

It was the first reported case of a patient being diagnosed with RCVS after eating a chilli pepper, the authors said. Over the next few days, he experienced thunderclap headaches at least twice-but likely more, he just couldn't recall exactly.

But when they looked at the CT scan of his brain, they realised several arteries in his brain had constricted.

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After five weeks, the man was found to be symptom-free.

It's a no-brainer that eating a Carolina Reaper, a chili pepper bred to be the hottest on earth, will come with consequences.

Given that the man developed the symptoms after consuming a vasoactive substance, the doctors concluded that eating the Carolina Reaper could have been the reason he developed RCVS.

It should also be considered if the patient has thunderclap headaches and admits they are a "chilli head". However, as for the Carolina Reaper, it's probably best to stay away.

While the direct cause of RCVS is often unknown, the condition has been associated with many risk factors including binge drinking, head trauma, and the use of nasal decongestants or prescription drugs. Previously eating cayenne pepper has been linked to sudden constriction of the coronary artery and heart attacks.

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If you're thinking of entering a hot chili pepper eating contest, you might want to think twice, doctors caution.

RCVS is temporary, and causes sudden narrowing of the blood vessels.

Dr. Kulothungan Gunasekaran, one of the reports authors, now at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said that for some reason the man must have been particularly sensitive to capsaicin, the heat-producing ingredient in peppers.

Some people like to do this sort of thing in private - testing their powers of endurance for reasons only they know - while for others competing against fellow hot-pepper fanatics is the name of the game. Then they remembered the pepper.

The patient was fine, with no lingering damage, but thunderclap headaches are not to be dismissed.

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What's interesting is this isn't even the first time chilli peppers have caused these kinds of problems.

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