Doc­tor’s or­ders: Stay away from red hot pep­per

The East African - - MAGAZINE | DRINK - - Wash­ing­ton Post

Doc­tors is­sued a chilli warn­ing this past Tues­day af­ter an Amer­i­can man who ate the world’s hottest pep­per was struck by ex­cru­ci­at­ing “thun­der­clap” headaches.

The 34-year-old man’s symp­toms be­gan with dry heaves “im­me­di­ately af­ter par­tic­i­pa­tion in a hot pep­per con­test where he ate one Carolina Reaper,” in 2016, said an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in med­i­cal jour­nal BMJ Case Re­ports. The man 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 be­ing 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, or af­ter tak­ing il­le­gal drugs.

“It was a big sur­prise to ev­ery­one,” said doc­tor Ku­lothun­gan Gu­nasekaran of the Henry Ford Hos­pi­tal in De­troit, one of the au­thors of the ar­ti­cle that warns of the dan­gers of play­ing with chilli fire.

The man’s symp­toms cleared up by them­selves and a fol­low-up CT scan five weeks af­ter the event showed that his ar­ter­ies had re­turned to their nor­mal width.

Eat­ing cayenne pep­per has pre­vi­ously been linked to heart at­tacks, the study au­thors said.

“We would rec­om­mend the gen­eral pub­lic be cau­tious when eat­ing chilli pep­pers and to seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion straight away if you de­velop symp­toms like this,” Gu­nasekaran warned.

For those who dare, 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 web­site of Guin­ness World Records. Last year it named the Carolina Reaper as the hottest pep­per on Earth. It is grown by a pro­ducer in South Carolina.

In Novem­ber 2016, a new record of 120 grammes of Carolina Reaper were eaten in one minute at a com­pe­ti­tion in Ari­zona.

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