When you eat a hot pepper such as a jalapeño, you can expect the typical mouth-on-fire sensation, stinging on your lips, and possibly sweating. If you eat a pepper hot enough, you may even dry-heave or vomit. But one man who ate a whole Carolina Reaper pepper — dubbed the hottest pepper in the world by Guinness World Records — had a reaction so bad, he landed in the hospital.
The 34-year-old man ate the pepper as part of a hot pepper contest, according to a report in BMJ Case Reports. Right after he ate that pepper, he experienced dry-heaving but no vomiting. Over the next few days, he experienced pain in his neck and head known as a thunderclap headache, where the pain is a sudden-onset and reaches maximum severity within seconds to minutes. After a few more thunderclap headaches, he came to the ER in "excruciating" pain.
Scans of his head revealed he had constriction in some of his arteries, which can cause headaches. He didn't have any other symptoms that tend to accompany a thunderclap headache, such as tingling, weakness, slurred speech, or loss of vision. The man was diagnosed with reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome, or RCVS, and the doctors believe it was caused by the hot pepper, according to CNN. The culprit could have been capsaicin, the chemical in hot peppers that make them spicy.
If you think jalapeños are hot, that's nothing compared to a Carolina Reaper; jalapeños rank an average of 3,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale, which measures the spiciness of chili peppers and other spicy foods. Carolina Reapers, on the other hand, measure around 1.5 to 2 million on the scale — about 400 times spicier than jalapeños.
No matter how much money you'll win in a hot pepper eating contest, it's probably not a good idea to eat a Carolina Reaper, especially not the whole pepper. Aside from being in excruciating pain, you may land yourself in the emergency room.