Attempting a hot pepper challenge comes with the understanding that a lot of pain is going to be involved. The fiery poison within, called capsaicin, can incite symptoms ranging from a tingling on your tongue to “thunderclap headaches.” This sudden and harsh head pain, which recently happened to someone that ate a Carolina Reaper, involves the constriction of the blood vessels in your head and neck. The swift change in pressure that results causes dry heaving and excruciating agony that can land the victim in the hospital.
However, that’s not even the most dangerous aspect of a hot pepper challenge. The consumption of capsaicin can come with several health hazards — some mild, others potentially lethal. Here a few that you need to watch out for when attempting to show off your spicy mettle.
These will typically arise if you’re eating something way too spicy. The ensuing sensations can range from mildly discomforting to also feeling like there’s a molten rock in your stomach. That’s how I felt after taking on the One Chip Challenge, and it took at least a few hours for me to recover. Although, the pain from eating chilies isn’t the worst thing they can do to your gut.
Stomach and Intestine Damage
Capsaicin can damage the interior mucus layers of your stomach and intestine. While they won’t cause something like a stomach ulcer, all of the coughing, retching, and possible vomiting you’re doing as a result of the heat might do just that. That, and the mucus breakdown means your stomach lining is more vulnerable to the caustic acid inside, which can lead to even more pain. Youch.
Because your body goes into red alert mode after consuming a nuclear-hot pepper, everything will tend to speed up. This can lead to hyperventilating, which is more common, as well as possible seizures. A couple of people who ate a fiery burger suffered from those once, and one child even died from a seizure induced by the ingestion of chili powder.
A Hole In Your Esophagus
This actually happened. One man who ingested a hamburger topped with a ghost pepper puree was hospitalized after vomiting and experiencing stomach pain. Upon further examination, doctors found an inch-long tear in his esophagus, resulting from all of the throwing up caused by the fiery chilies.
Also known as reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome, this happens when the capsaicin induces the blood vessels near your head to tighten, as previously mentioned. It’s rare for this to happen, but if your heat sensitivity is quite low, then I would be watchful and not go for the Carolina Reaper on the first try.
Anaphylactic Shock and Possible Death
The possibility of a hot pepper challenge killing you is out there, as shown earlier by the child who died from a seizure. What might be worse, though, is consuming enough capsaicin to cause an allergic reaction, even anaphylactic shock. One man who ate a plateful of fiery hot sauce went through just that, and was found dead of heart failure the following morning. This was likely due to an over-release of histamines, which cause anaphylaxis.
Of course, all of these disturbing tales of hot pepper poisoning resulted from some of the spiciest chilies out there. If you stay within your comfort zone, like Sriracha or Tabasco, you should be okay enjoying some capsaicin. It’s when people don’t know their limits and go too far that dangerous scenarios transpire.