Here’s some seriously spicy news. After eating the world’s hottest pepper in a chili-eating contest, a man ended up in the hospital with extremely painful headaches. Just one Carolina Reaper chili induced the pain days later. This may seem like an unsurprising result, but according to the journal BMJ Case Reports, this is the first reported incident of chili-associated “thunderclap” headaches.

For those unaware, Carolina Reapers were officially designated the world’s hottest pepper by Guinness World Records in 2013.  The average Reaper delivers 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). To give a sense of its spicy scope, jalapeños pale in comparison and only pack about 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. And to many, those taste like a mouth full of fire!

After competing in the contest, the man experienced dry heaves, but it wasn’t until hours later that he felt severe neck pains. The aforementioned thunderclap headaches soon followed. Thunderclap headaches are caused by the sudden constriction of vessels that supply blood to the brain. The condition is scientifically known as reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCSV) and it’s a major medical issue.

Luckily his symptoms cleared up and within five weeks and a CT scan revealed that his arteries returned to their normal size. While chilis have never been associated with an incident quite this extreme, cayenne pepper has previously been linked to sudden coronary constriction and heart attacks. So be careful the next time you reach for the hot sauce.

In an interview with the BBC, Dr Kulothungan Gunasekaran, the doctor who wrote the case report, had these wise words to say: “We would not advise against eating Carolina Reaper at this time, but we would recommend the general public be cautious about these adverse effects and we advise that they should seek medical attention immediately if they develop sudden onset headache after eating hot peppers.” We’ll be sure to heed that advice.

Header image courtesy of Pixabay.

Jessica is a former Associate Editor at Chowhound. Follow her on Twitter @volume_knob for updates on snacks and cats.
See more articles