Ghost Pepper

Wikimedia CommonsGhost peppers.

A 47-year-old man had to go to the emergency room in San Francisco after a ghost pepper burned a hole right through his throat. As reported in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, the man had attempted to eat a hamburger served with a ghost pepper puree.

Unfortunately for him, his reaction to the ghost pepper’s unparalleled heat literally tore a hole in his esophagus.

Despite the six glasses of water he drank, the heat was too much, and the vomiting and retching was so forceful that it led to a rare diagnosis of Boerhaave syndrome. Thus the man not only experienced awful abdominal pain, but the cut in his esophagus could have been fatal if doctors hadn’t diagnosed and treated it.

“The rupture was as a result of the forceful vomiting and retching, as a result of eating the hamburger with the ghost pepper puree,” said UC San Francisco clinical fellow and study author Ann Arens, to The Washington Post.

“When people ask me whether it is safe to try the ‘spicy food challenges’ I generally take a Nancy Reagan stance, and say ‘Just Say No,’” Arens added. “But if you really just can’t help yourself, I would recommend just starting with a taste.”

The cut is reported to have been a “2.5-cm tear in the distal esophagus,” according to the journal. Surgeons were able to repair this tear, but it was a long process. “He remained intubated until hospital day 14, began tolerating liquids on hospital day 17, and was discharged home with a gastric tube in place on hospital day 23.”

And just how hot does a pepper have to be to make for a hospital stay like this? Spiciness is rated on the Scoville scale. A bell pepper is zero units, a jalapeño is 2,500-8000 units, and a ghost pepper is 1 million units. For comparison, police pepper spray is 5 million units.

“Your body thinks it’s going to die,” Louisiana pepper grower Ronald Primeaux told the AP, describing the experience of eating peppers like the one in question. “When you put one of these in your mouth, it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. A bear is chasing you. You’ve just been in a car wreck. You just got caught speeding, and a cop is giving you a ticket.”


Next, learn about the science behind spiciness.

Michael Gardiner
Based in NYC. Tips and Hints: [email protected]
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