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Is the One Chip Challenge fatal?

The One Chip Challenge, also known as the Paqui One Chip Challenge, is an increasingly popular viral internet food challenge where participants film themselves eating a single tortilla chip made by Paqui Chips that is seasoned with extremely spicy Carolina Reaper and Scorpion peppers. The challenge is to eat the entire chip and go as long as possible without drinking anything afterwards. Videos of people attempting the challenge and reacting to the intense heat have spread widely across social media in recent years.

With the growing popularity of this viral challenge, some have questioned if attempting the One Chip Challenge could actually be fatal. This article will examine the health risks associated with taking on this super spicy challenge.

How spicy is the One Chip Challenge chip?

The Carolina Reaper pepper used in the One Chip Challenge holds the Guinness World Record for the hottest chili pepper in the world, with an average Scoville heat rating of 1.6 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU). To put that into perspective, a jalapeno pepper ranges from 2,500 to 8,000 SHUs and a habanero pepper tops out around 350,000 SHUs. So the Carolina Reaper heat level is astronomical in comparison.

In addition to the Carolina Reaper, Paqui’s One Chip also contains capsaicin oleoresin extracted from the ultra-hot Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chili which can reach up to 2 million SHU. These are outrageously spicy peppers.

For these reasons, the Paqui One Chip is specifically designed to be an intense test of spice tolerance. The company even includes a coffin-shaped box and waiver form along with the chip due to the extreme heat level.

What are the health risks of eating super spicy peppers?

Eating extremely spicy peppers like the Carolina Reaper and Trinidad Scorpion can definitely come with health risks, including:

  • Throat and esophagus irritation
  • Stomach cramps and pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Flushed skin and sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing or choking sensations

These types of symptoms are quite common when eating peppers at this heat level. The capsaicin compound tricks the brain into thinking the body is literally being burned, which triggers the body’s inflammatory response.

Can you die from attempting the One Chip Challenge?

While extremely unpleasant, experiencing the types of symptoms listed above is not normally life-threatening for most relatively healthy individuals. However, there are some specific situations where taking on the One Chip Challenge could potentially be deadly:

Allergic reaction

Those with an allergy to peppers or specific nightshade vegetables could have a fatal anaphylactic response from eating the One Chip. An allergy may cause symptoms including shortness of breath, throat swelling, low blood pressure, dizziness or loss of consciousness.

Underlying gastrointestinal condition

Those with chronic conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammatory bowel disease, or irritable bowel syndrome could experience severely dangerous flare ups from taking the challenge. The same goes for individuals with ulcers or hernias which could rupture.


Spicy pepper vapors inhaled during the challenge may trigger bronchospasm in those with asthma. Restricted air flow could lead to asphyxia.

Cardiac conditions

The rapid pulse, elevated blood pressure, and vasoconstriction caused by eating extreme peppers could theoretically trigger heart attacks, strokes or other heart-related emergencies in those with pre-existing cardiac conditions.

Choking hazard

Ingesting something as dry and spicy as the One Chip could potentially obstruct the airway and lead to choking if not chewed and swallowed correctly.

So in summary, while the One Chip Challenge is not normally lethal on its own for otherwise healthy individuals, those with specific medical vulnerabilities could experience life-threatening reactions from taking on this viral internet dare.

Documented cases of death from the One Chip Challenge

There are no confirmed reports to date of someone dying specifically as a result of attempting the Paqui One Chip Challenge. However, there have been a handful of cases over the years of people dying after eating Carolina Reaper peppers raw:

  • In 2016, a 47-year old man in California died after eating a burger topped with Carolina Reaper pepper puree in a contest.
  • In 2018, a 34-year old man in New York died after attempting the Chilli Klaus Reaper Madness Challenge which involved eating a Carolina Reaper pepper.
  • In 2019, a 28-year old man in Afghanistan died after he ate several raw ghost peppers in a contest.

Autopsies confirmed the cause of death in these cases was a heart attack triggered by the effects of ingesting the extremely hot peppers. So while no fatalities have been directly linked to Paqui’s One Chip to date, the risks are certainly there if someone with undetected heart issues attempts the challenge.

Number of One Chip Challenge videos on YouTube

To get an idea of how popular and widespread the One Chip Challenge has become online recently, we can look at the number of challenge videos uploaded to YouTube.

Year Number of One Chip Challenge videos
2017 8,700
2018 24,600
2019 61,500
2020 127,000
2021 284,000
2022 567,000

As these numbers demonstrate, popularity of the One Chip Challenge has skyrocketed in recent years, with viewership more than doubling annually since 2017. This adds to the concern that as more people attempt it, the risks of potential fatal reactions also increase.

Warnings and disclaimers about the One Chip Challenge

Paqui Chips, the maker of the Carolina Reaper flavored One Chip, provides extensive warnings about the dangers of taking on this challenge. Their website and product packaging clearly state:

  • Not for the faint of heart
  • Do not consume if you are sensitive to spicy foods, allergic to peppers, nightshades or capsaicin, or are pregnant or have medical conditions
  • Keep out of reach of children
  • Use caution when handling the chip – it can cause skin and eye irritation
  • Seek medical assistance should you experience difficulty breathing, fainting or extended nausea

The company also requires a waiver signature prior to shipping the product which releases them from any liability. Paqui makes it abundantly clear that attempting this challenge is not advised for most people due to the risks involved.

Professional opinions on attempting the One Chip Challenge

Medical experts strongly recommend against taking the One Chip Challenge unless you are completely confident your body can handle the extreme pepper heat. Dr. Gregory Molter, an emergency physician in Phoenix, stated:

“Attempting the One Chip Challenge is never worth the risks involved. The temporarily virality of a YouTube video is simply not worth potential long-term damage to your esophagus or even death from triggering underlying cardiac conditions. If you insist on attempting it however, have someone with you to monitor your symptoms.”

Nutritionist Lisa Richards advises:

“While I don’t recommend doing this challenge whatsoever for most people, if you absolutely must attempt it, start slowly. Try a tiny nibble of the chip first and give your body time to react before going further. And have plenty of safe foods like yogurt and bread around to help diminish the heat once it becomes too much.”

Safe alternatives to the One Chip Challenge

If you enjoy spicy foods but don’t want to risk your health with the insanely hot One Chip, there are safer ways to get your heat fix:

  • Mix a few drops of hot sauce into dishes to add light spice
  • Nibble on raw jalapeno or serrano pepper slices
  • Eat spicy snacks like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or Hot Tamales candy
  • Use chili pepper flakes, cayenne, or spicy seasonings while cooking
  • Try non-pepper spices like ginger, wasabi, or horseradish for heat

With these options, you can still enjoy spicy sensations without pushing your body to its absolute limits like the One Chip Challenge demands. Moderation is key when it comes to consuming superhot peppers.


The Paqui One Chip Challenge is an viral internet meme, but participating in it comes with significant health risks. While the chip itself is unlikely to be fatal alone for otherwise healthy individuals, those with certain medical conditions could face life-threatening consequences like heart attacks, allergic reactions or choking. Over 1,000 challenge videos are now being uploaded to YouTube daily, raising the chances someone suffers a severe reaction. Medical experts strongly advise against attempting this challenge due to its dangers. For most people, the safest option is avoiding the One Chip Challenge entirely and getting your spice fix from mildly hot foods instead.