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Man enters chilli-eating contest. The chilli won.

People with too much time on their hands and a WiFi connection will have seen the clips of optimistic fools eating jalapeños. The ultimate contest between humans and comestibles involves eating simple, uncooked, untreated chillis.

Of course it’s all good, clean fun until someone gets hurt. Which is precisely the point at which the British Medical Journal gets involved. In the latest edition of the journal’s Case Reports, four New York-based emergency doctors, led by Satish Kumar Boddhula, report on a man who experienced crippling “thunderclap headaches” after attempting to eat a ‘Carolina Reaper’, billed as the hottest chilli in the world.

Measured on the Scoville Heat Unit Scale we see how a baseline pepper has 1 SHU. A bird’s eye chilli (hot enough for most spice-lovers) contains up to 225,000 SHU. The Carolina Reaper contains 1,569,300.

The 34-year-old man who saw Boddhula at the Bassett Medical Centre in New York presumably knew that. It was, indeed, probably the reason he chose to tackle the fruit at a chilli-eating contest in the first place.

Cosmosmagazine.com reported how, by the time he arrived at the ER, two days of sheer misery had elapsed since eating the chilli. Immediately after eating the chilli, the case study notes reveal, he started dry-heaving.

The description continues: “He then developed intense neck and occipital head pain.” After that he experienced multiple thunderclap headaches: brief bouts of excruciating pain that sent him scurrying to the hospital.

Once there, he was tested for a variety of neurological conditions, including aneurism, but everything came back clear. A CT-scan, however, revealed that several of the arteries leading to his brain were constricted.

Boddhula and colleagues diagnosed a condition known as reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome. As the name implies, the artery restrictions gradually eased and the headaches disappeared.

After five weeks, the man was found to be symptom-free. It is unknown whether he plans a return match with the chilli from hell.

Publication date: 4/11/2018


 


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