An emergency response was initiated at a school in Ohio after around 40 children ingested Bhut Jolokia peppers – one of the hottest species in existence.
An unidentified student brought the peppers into Milton Union Middle School, West Milton, and apparently shared them among other students aged 11 to 14.
Police and emergency responders were contacted on Friday after the students began to exhibit symptoms such as blotchy skin, hives, sweating, watering eyes and general discomfort, the Dayton Daily News reported.
Five students had to be hospitalised.
The students “took these peppers voluntarily”, according to a police investigation.
“We all drank like 10 cartons of milk,” eighth grade student Cody Schmidt told the newspaper, adding that the pepper was “really hot”.
The school’s superintendent, Brad Ritchey, said: “The response of emergency services was amazing, deputies and help from surrounding paramedics.
“We really had a lot of help here this afternoon. This was serious but sometimes situations at schools become far more serious than this.”
School staff are now looking into whether to pursue disciplinary action.
The Bhut Jolokia pepper has a Scoville rating of over one million units – compared to the 8,000 held by Tabasco sauce.
It was declared the world’s hottest chilli pepper in 2007, but was overtaken by a number of other varieties. Since 2013, the world’s hottest chilli has been the Carolina Reaper, which measures 1.57 million Scoville units.
The active ingredient of chillies is capsaicin, which is an irritant to mammals. In addition to causing a burning sensation on flesh it comes into contact with, it can also cause tissue inflammation in the lining of the stomach or intestines in large doses.
But taken moderately, capsaicin is thought to have health benefits.
Research conducted in 1980 found a 68 kilogram human would need to eat at least 1.3 kilograms of the hottest chillies in one sitting for the peppers to have a lethal effect.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies