Pepper-eating contests are all fun and games until somebody eats a Carolina Reaper and ends up in the ER with a headache often associated with a brain hemorrhage. Apparently, that was the fate that recently befell one unidentified man who entered one of these pain-welcoming competitions in upstate New York.
The contestant, a 34-year-old with “no significant medical history,” ate his Reaper — it’s the Guinness World Records’ hottest pepper — and immediately started dry-heaving, according to a case study just published by his doctors. That’s hardly unusual for the masochists who bite into these peppers. But the retching was just the beginning: The man then developed “intense neck and occipital head pain” that, over the coming days, grew into “intense thunderclap headaches lasting seconds.” Thunderclap headaches are a real medical condition, and according to a report in the New York Times, they can “indicate the kind of stroke that results from bleeding in the brain.”
At that point, unsurprisingly, the man sought medical help. One of his doctors tells the Times that it appears that this guy was especially sensitive to capsaicin, the compound that makes chilies hot (and, also, the active ingredient in pepper spray). The Times also called up the Reaper’s inventor — Ed Currie, of the PuckerButt Pepper Company in South Carolina. Currie doesn’t suggest downing them whole, but also notes that “we eat them all the time,” with no consequences besides the normal mouth-of-hellfire pain.
Really, there are all sorts of reasons to avoid anything made with this mouth-numbing pepper. Just ask this Philadelphia news anchor.