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Man Eats World’s Hottest Pepper. Ends Up in the ER with Thunderclap Headaches

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One brave soul attempted a gutsy feat. The 34-year-old man consumed one of the hottest peppers known to man as part of a chili pepper eating contest. But along with the usual pains associated with consuming the food item, he ended up with a side effect that led to a trip to the ER.

The strange case was outlined in a medical journal article released on Monday, according to a report by Gizmodo. The man consumed a Carolina Reaper, a pepper with the notorious reputation of being the hottest one in the world, according to the 2013 Guinness Book of World Records.

After eating the pepper, the man quickly started dry heaving, followed by an excruciating pain in his neck that promptly began radiating through his entire head.

For several days, the unlucky contest participant experienced short but intense bursts of pain typically called thunderclap headaches.

Ultimately, the headaches became so intolerable that he went to the ER.

Luckily, a brain scan didn’t identify any life-threatening neurological issues that could have explained the pain, such as an aneurysm or a bleed. However, several of his arteries appeared to be significantly narrowed, a brain condition known as reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS).

RCVS is recognized as a potential cause for thunderclap headaches. The condition can be brought on by a variety of drugs, including some antidepressants and cocaine.

No prior cases of RCVS have been associated with the consumption of peppers. However, the doctors noted that capsaicin – the ingredient that makes peppers spicy – is known to affect blood vessels, such as by dilating or constricting them.

“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,’” said the doctors in their report.

Typically, RCVS resolves itself within days to weeks. The man was provided supportive care, and his headaches eventually disappeared.

A follow-up brain scan five weeks after the ER visit showed that his arteries had returned to normal size.

Generally, Carolina Reapers or other hot peppers aren’t considered dangerous. The doctors hope that their report by helping others who experience similar symptoms identify the potential cause.