World's hottest chilli gives man 'thunderclap' headaches

PARIS • Doctors issued a chilli warning yesterday after an American man who ate the world's hottest pepper was struck by excruciating "thunderclap" headaches.

The man's symptoms began with dry heaves "immediately after participation in a hot pepper contest where he ate a Carolina Reaper" in 2016, said an article published in medical journal BMJ Case Reports.

The man, 34, then developed intense neck and head pain and, for several days, experienced brief but intense "thunderclap" headaches. Each lasted several seconds.

After seeking emergency care, tests for various neurological conditions came back negative.

In the end, doctors diagnosed him with a temporary brain condition called "reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome" (RCVS), characterised by the temporary narrowing of blood vessels to the brain.

It was the first reported case of a patient diagnosed with RCVS after eating a chilli pepper, the authors said. Often accompanied by "thunderclap" headaches, the condition usually occurs as a reaction to certain prescription medications. The man's symptoms cleared up by themselves and a follow-up CT scan five weeks later showed that his arteries had returned to their normal width.

The Carolina Reaper has a fruity, sweet taste with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate undertones, as well as being extremely hot, according to the Guinness World Records.

Dr Kulothungan Gunasekaran of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, one of the authors of the article, said: "We would recommend the general public to be cautious when eating chilli peppers and to seek medical attention straight away if you develop symptoms like this."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline 'World's hottest chilli gives man 'thunderclap' headaches'. Subscribe