According to information reported by the DailyMail, a 25-year-old Brazilian girl suffered from cerebral edema plunging her into a coma, after only “breathing” a very powerful pepper. How is it possible ? The opinion of Dr Isabelle Bossé, allergist.
Suffering from gastric troubles, hemorrhoids or migraines after eating peppers is not uncommon. But for Thais Médeiros, a 25-year-old Brazilian, the experience with an extra hot pepper turned into a nightmare. While she was cooking with her in-laws, she brought her nose close to one of the ingredients: one of the most powerful peppers in the world. The young woman experienced an extreme reaction.
A dazzling pepper allergy and brain edema
A few seconds later, Thais Medeiros complained of severe throat irritation before she could not breathe and was rushed to hospital. The doctors then discovered that the patient was suffering from cerebral edema, probably caused by an unsuspected strong allergy to this pepper.
This cerebral edema, also called cerebral swelling, is an excessive accumulation of fluid in the tissues of the brain. Too much water then exerts pressure on the cranial box, which reduces blood flow and therefore the oxygen supply to the brain.
The young woman thus remained in a coma for several days, and is now recovering slowly. She should keep the after-effects of this event because the doctors admit that they are not optimistic about her chances of regaining all of her neurological abilities.
Can sniffing hot pepper put you in a coma?
Should the event, terrible for Thasi Meideros, serve as a warning to us? Can you die after touching or inhaling a pepper? For allergist Isabelle Bossé, member of our committee of experts, the case seems hard to believe.
“Cases of contact allergy exist with peppers. They can cause contact eczema, burns, and more rarely strong reactions and swelling in the oral or digestive mucous membranes, which can be fatal. But an isolated cerebral edema, after “inhaling” chili, seems unlikely to me. Moreover, it does not reflect anaphylactic shock.”
Anaphylactic shock, a reaction to spot in an emergency
The expert reminds us of what an anaphylactic shock covers, in general:
“An anaphylactic shock is an allergic reaction that occurs within minutes of consuming a food, drug or insect bite (wasp, hornet). The effects produced are related to the mediators released during the allergic reaction (histamine in particular). There are 4 stages, the first being a simple minor allergy. The other 3 lead to a reaction which requires an injection of adrenaline”.
The signs to be aware of are:
- Breathing difficulties;
- Digestive disorders;
- Swelling in the face of the eyelids, lips;
- An asthma attack;
- Patches of hives on the skin;
- Itchy palms.
We speak of anaphylactic shock when two organs are affected. “This is a sign that urgent action is needed to inject adrenaline into the patient”. If you observe these signs, whether you eat peppers or any other food, contact the emergency services immediately.
What is the treatment for anaphylactic shock?
The treatment of anaphylactic shock is based on intramuscular adrenaline injection, directly in the thigh. Anyone experiencing severe anaphylaxis should have an auto-injector pen always at hand. His emergency kit should also contain a bronchodilator and an antihistamine. Corticosteroids, on the other hand, are not recommended, because of their too long delay of action.
Beyond this immediate treatment, management is based on identification of allergens involved by an allergist and the therapeutic education of patients, via asthma and allergy schools.