close-up image of men with red chili in him teeth

Man Takes Part In Chili Pepper Eating Contest, Gets Sent To Hospital With ‘Thunderclap Headaches’

Photo: InnaFelker (Getty Images)

This is the first time I’m hearing of something called thunderclap headaches. Although I’m pretty sure I’ve experienced some. Mainly while reading the president’s tweets.

According to Gizmodo, a 34-year-old unidentified man took part in a chili pepper eating contest, a contest that saw him eat a Carolina Reaper. And well, that was a mistake because he ended up in the hospital after days of neck pain and dry heaving. But the worse part of his experience was the sudden bursts of head pain known as thunderclap headaches.


Thankfully, a brain scan didn’t reveal any major neurological issues, such as a bulged blood vessel (aneurysm) or bleeding. But several of his arteries did appear to narrow significantly, a condition called reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS).

RCVS is known to cause thunderclap headaches, and can be brought on by reactions to drugs, including cocaine and certain antidepressants. No case of RCVS has ever been associated with pepper-eating, but the main ingredient that accounts for a pepper’s spiciness—capsaicin—is known to interact with our blood vessels, either by constricting or dilating them, the doctors noted. And cayenne peppers have been rarely linked to heart attacks or suddenly constricted arteries near the heart.

“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,’” the doctors wrote.

Eventually the man’s headaches went away with the proper care, but it’s fascinating to hear that these specific type of headaches are usually brought on because of drugs or anti-depressants, not your regular old flaming pepper. But hey, at least this guy didn’t up like this poor woman:

I’m sure she had quite the headache afterwards.


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