A man was left hospitalised with severe thunderclap headaches after eating a ‘Carolina Reaper’, the world’s hottest chilli pepper.
Doctors explained in the journal BMJ Case Reports that the 34-year-old’s symptoms began immediately after eating the chilli, with dry heaves followed by severe neck pain and extremely painful headaches, each of which lasted just a few seconds and continued for the next several days.
The Carolina Reaper ranks between 1,500,000–2.2million units on the Scoville Scale, which is a measurement of the spicy heat of chilli peppers. By comparison a Jalapeño pepper scores 2,500–5,000, while a Scotch Bonnet pepper is 100,000–400,000.
The 34-year-old’s pain was so severe that he sought emergency care and was tested for various neurological conditions, the results of which all came back negative.
A CT (computed tomography) scan showed that several arteries in his brain had constricted, prompting doctors to diagnose him with thunderclap headache secondary to reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS).
A thunderclap headache is described as an intense burst of pain which usually peaks within 60 seconds. According to MayoClinic, these types of headache are uncommon and can be caused by potentially life-threatening conditions.
RCVS is characterised by temporary artery narrowing often accompanied by a thunderclap headache. It doesn’t always have an obvious cause, but can occur as a reaction to certain prescription medications or after taking illegal drugs.
This is the first case to be associated with eating chilli peppers, the authors said, although they did point out that eating cayenne pepper has been linked to sudden constriction of the coronary artery and heart attacks.
“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 authors said.
The man’s symptoms cleared up by themselves and a CT scan five weeks later showed that his affected arteries had returned to their normal width.
We reckon he’ll steer clear of spicy food from now on.