Man Spends 23 Days In the Hospital After Eating a Ghost Pepper

A word to the wise: Stay away from ghost peppers! A puree made from the peppers — which are known for their off-the-chart level of spiciness — led to a rare, life-threatening condition in an otherwise healthy 47-year-old California man. Ghost peppers have a measured heat of more than a million Scoville heat units. Compare than with a 2,000-unit poblano pepper or a 5,000-unit jalapeño. Eating a single seed from a ghost pepper can cause severe burning in the mouth that lasts up to 30 minutes. In the San Francisco man’s case, the ghost pepper had been pureed and served atop a hamburger as part of an eating contest at a local restaurant. After finishing the pepper-topped burger, the unidentified man drank six large glasses of water. Then he began violently vomiting and was soon rushed to the emergency room. A CT scan showed that his esophagus was torn and that his left lung had collapsed. He was sent for emergency surgery, at which time the surgeon discovered a one-inch tear that was leaking food into the space around the man’s left lung. The esophagus was repaired and the lung re-inflated, after which the man was placed on a feeding tube to allow the esophagus to heal. Spontaneous esophageal rupture is caused by violent vomiting and retching and can be fatal in 40% of all cases. The man was sent home from the hospital after 23 days, vowing never to eat another ghost pepper.