A Competitive Eater Suffered a Rare 'Thunderclap' Headache Brought on by the World's Hottest Chili Pepper

He ate a "Carolina Reaper" — the world's most intense chili — at a hot-pepper-eating contest

A 34-year-old man ended up in an emergency room with an excruciating, days-long headache after he ate a “Carolina Reaper” — the world’s most intense chili — at a hot-pepper-eating contest.

The symptoms began immediately: First, dry heaves, and then intense neck and head pain, according to doctors at the Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, New York. While those side effects may not be uncommon after consuming ultra-hot peppers, things quickly escalated. The man began experiencing very rare “thunderclap” headaches — that’s the medical term for a headache that escalates suddenly and staggeringly with maximum pain experienced in 60 seconds or less. With these thunderclap episodes continuing over several days, the man headed to the ER.

Doctors couldn’t initially figure out what had gone wrong. The man was not showing neurological impairments such as slurred speech, muscle weakness or vision loss that could indicate a stroke. CT imaging also ruled out an aneurysm. But then scans of his head and neck revealed constriction in some arteries supplying the brain, which can cause intense headaches, the doctors wrote in the journal BMJ Case Reports, published Monday.

They added that they’d never seen such symptoms related to peppers or cayenne.

“Our patient’s symptoms improved with supportive care, he had no further thunderclap headaches,” the report said.