'One Chip Challenge' trend scorches TikTok, putting some in hospital

After consuming Paqui's blazing hot chips, trend participants have seen concerning side effects.

 Paqui's coffin shaped box containing one chip 400 times hotter than a jalapeño (photo credit: Kirk K/flickr)
Paqui's coffin shaped box containing one chip 400 times hotter than a jalapeño
(photo credit: Kirk K/flickr)

Paqui's “One Chip Challenge” is sending TikTok stars and grade school students alike to hospitals around North America.

What is the “One Chip Challenge”?

The infamous social-media challenge, where one eats a “straight-from-hell" Carolina-Reaper-flavored chip and waits as long as possible before eating or drinking anything, has resurfaced on TikTok in recent weeks. The peppers found in the chip have been rated as almost 2 million Scoville heat units, 400 times hotter than the average jalapeño.

Viral videos show large influencers, as well as young children endeavoring to conquer the challenge.

@vlone.marion_ This man i swear #speed #ishowspeed #clip #funny #fyp #foru @ishowspeed ♬ Beat Automotivo Tan Tan Tan Viral - WZ Beat

Speed, a famous twitch streamer, hyperventilates after consuming the chip. 

@cheekyboyos Replying to @spicymamabears Comment what we should do next #spicy ♬ original sound - the cheeky boyos

One of the cheeky boyos, a popular TikTok duo, completes the challenge and then devours a gallon of milk. 

@authenticteecee I finally PROVED YOU WRONG! #onechipchallenge #onechipchallenge2022 #onechipchallenge? #onechipchallengegonewrong #onechipchallengeblackpeople #mukbang ♬ original sound - AUTHENTICTEECEE

Authenticteecee, another popular TikToker, recorded herself throwing up after completing the challenge.

@joeychestnut the Paqui one chip challenge is no joke!! It is one of the only regrets of my life... @dudewipes ♬ original sound - JoeyChestnut

Joey Chestnut, the hot dog world champion known to have a stomach of steel, calls the challenge “one of [his] only regrets of [his] life."

@angela_b157 #onechipchallenge ♬ Originalton - POV’s

The most gruesome of the viral TikTok videos shows a girl writhing in pain on a hospital bed hours after eating the chip. The girl shown in the video took on a $50 bet to eat the chip. 

“It’s not so bad,” she said after finishing the chip. Nevertheless, her stomach started to burn, and she lost control of her breathing shortly after.

Those around her made the decision to take her to the emergency room where medical staff treated her with several medications that took hours to kick in. Eventually, she healed and made a full recovery.

With people crying, hyperventilating, throwing up, and bleeding from their noses after completing “The One Chip Challenge,” the trend seems more akin to a death wish than a fun social-media fad. 

This hospital-trip-waiting-to-happen is easily accessible to the general public in most supermarkets and one-stop convenience stores. One can even purchase Paqui’s “One Chip Challenge” on Amazon with the click of a button.

Even elementary school students have been able to get their hands on the chips in Tyler, Texas, and Clovis, New Mexico. After the challenge sent several of these districts’ students to the nurse’s office and many others to the hospital, the schools are banning the chips.

Why do the chips do so much damage?

According to the United States National Capital Poison Center, much of the damage is caused by the chip’s ingredient capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers that causes mouth and throat pain. It has even been proven to lead to heart attacks and long-term esophageal damage.

"[Capsaicin is] found in pepper spray," Dr. Brett Christiansen, a pediatrician at Marshall Hospital and the Marshall Pediatric Clinic in Placerville, California, told TODAY. "If it was to get into the eyes or nose, it could result in a serious burning sensation there as well. Worse, if it was accidentally inhaled, which I can imagine happening if someone was to gasp when biting into the chip and noting the heat, it could lead to bronchospasm, be a trigger for asthma or at the least, lead to severe coughing."

"If [capsaicin] was to get into the eyes or nose, it could result in a serious burning sensation there as well. Worse, if it was accidentally inhaled, which I can imagine happening if someone was to gasp when biting into the chip and noting the heat, it could lead to bronchospasm, be a trigger for asthma or at the least, lead to severe coughing."

Dr. Brett Christiansen

Is it really a productive idea to encourage kids to ingest pepper spray?

To be fair, Paqui displays a clear warning on all packages. “Do not eat if you are sensitive to spicy foods, allergic to peppers, nightshades or capsaicin, or are pregnant or have any medical conditions. Keep out of reach of children. After touching the chip, wash your hands with soap and do not touch your eyes or other sensitive areas. Seek medical assistance should you experience difficulty breathing, fainting or extended nausea," warns Paqui.

However, thrill seekers and naive children tend not to look into warnings when something is labeled as a purely fun challenge.