Hottest chilli gives man a world-record headache

Carolina Reaper pepper. courtesy

Carolina Reaper pepper. courtesy

An American man has been left in hospital after eating the world's hottest chilli pepper during a contest in New York State.

A man has suffered two days of thunderclap headaches after eating the world's hottest pepper in a chilli-eating contest. Guinness says it averages around 1.6 million Scoville Heat Units. By comparison a Jalapeño pepper scores 2,500-5,000, while a Scotch Bonnet pepper is ‎100,000-400,000.

Daredevils who enjoy torturing their mouths with spicy chili peppers can expect a number of unpleasant symptoms: burning mouth, running nose, teary eyes, coughing, stomach pain, even vomiting.

His symptoms started immediately after he had eaten the chilli, with dry heaves.

"Thunderclap" headaches is occurred by the tightening of the arteries which help in supplying blood to the brain.

In the first ever recorded case of a chilli causing these types of headaches, the man over the next few days experienced short splitting pains lasting seconds at a time.

The pain was so severe that he sought emergency treatment and was tested for multiple neurological conditions.

The man informed doctors that he felt no tingling sensations or weakness, no slurred speech or loss of vision, and just had a slightly high blood pressure at 134/69mm Hg. Initial CT scans found no problems in his neck and head.

"Reversible but risky blood vessel constriction in the brain is known to be associated with certain medications including antidepressants, stimulants and marijuana and now, possibly, capsaicin [pepper] as well", said Dr. Noah Rosen, director, of Northwell Health's Headache Center in Great Neck, N.Y.

But the underlying cause isn't always life-threatening. It's been known to happen with medicines such as antidepressants and certain decongestants, as well with illicit drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, the doctors wrote.

The case was reported in the British Medical Journal as it is thought to be the first associated with the red-hot peppers.

While most RCVS patients do well, she added, a minority can have such severe blood vessel spasms that they die.

Sympathetic tone refers to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which also results in the constriction of blood vessels.

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, can trigger the frightening condition.

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