World's hottest pepper sends man to ER

Enlarge  Mature Carolina

Doctors, who have published details of the incident in journal BMJ Case Reports, warned being part of hotchilli contests could have unexpected consequences.

A 34-year-old man ended up in an emergency room with an excruciating, days-long headache after he ate a "Carolina Reaper" - the world's most intense chili - at a hot-pepper-eating contest.

Apparently, a new cause has been identified: Puckerbutt Pepper Company's Carolina Reapers, the world's hottest pepper. To put that in perspective - jalapeno peppers score between 2,500 and 8,000 SHU. He first made his claim to fame in 2014 when Guinness announced his first Carolina Reaper had taken the title.

"This is the first time a pepper has caused this effect", say the authors of the study.

Shortly after eating the pepper, he began dry heaving and developed severe neck and head pain.

It passed, but over the next few days he experienced more thunderclap headaches — that is the clinical term — so he sought medical attention.

Much like the name suggests, they can be described as severely painful headaches that strike all of a sudden like thunder. Such headaches reach their peak within one minute, disappear just as quickly and are often accompanied by nausea or vomiting.

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The patient was tested for various neurological conditions, but the results came back negative. But doctors didn't find any immediate problems with him to explain the episodes.

The patient told doctors he did not have any focal tingling sensation or weakness, slurred speech, or transient loss of vision.

But when the medical team tried another type of CT scan created to look at the blood vessels in the brain, they had a surprise.

Gunasekaran and Dr. Gregory Cummings, a neurologist, eventually diagnosed the man with the thunderclap, which doctors call reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome - caused by a narrowing of blood vessels in the brain.

But the underlying cause isn't always life-threatening.

While such narrowing of the blood vessels can be triggered by certain medications or drugs, the team found nothing of the sort when they screened the man's urine.

"Besides supportive care, the most common treatment is to avoid the offending agent so it may give one second thoughts about eating the world's hottest peppers!" he added.

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