Carolina Reaper Pepper Lands Man In Hospital With 'Thunderclap Headaches'

A brave man with a taste for adventure and spicy food got more than he bargained for and wound up as a case study in a medical journal after he ate a whole Carolina Reaper pepper and started suffering extreme headaches that landed him in the hospital.

The Carolina Reaper is one of the world's spiciest peppers. In 2013 the Guinness Book of World Records dubbed it the spiciest pepper in the world. The Carolina Reaper's title has been challenged since then by the Dragon's Breath pepper, which was challenged in turn by a pepper called Pepper X in September 2017. The Carolina Reaper is still very, very spicy, though, and a 34-year-old man likely regretted consuming one in a chile-eating contest after it left him with excruciating headaches so bad he needed to be hospitalized.

According to Fox News, the man only ate one Carolina Reaper, but he started dry-heaving and experiencing severe head and neck pain immediately after the contest. The headaches got so bad that he went to the emergency room. A brain scan later showed that several arteries in his brain had constricted.

The man was diagnosed with reversible cerebral vasoconstriction system, or RCVS, which is a temporary condition accompanied by a sudden severe pain called a "thunderclap headache."

RCVS had never been associated with pepper-eating before, but capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot chiles, can affect blood vessels.

"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,'" Dr. Kulothungan Gunasekaran of the Bassett Medical Center wrote in the British Medical Journal.

The patient recovered, and a scan taken five weeks later showed his cerebral arteries had returned to their normal size. Still, for a while he'll probably think twice before sitting down to try any of these dishes on the list of the world's spiciest foods.