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Reye syndrome is a rare but
serious disease that most often affects children ages 6 to 12 years old. It can
cause brain swelling and liver damage. It may be related to using
aspirin to treat viral infections.
syndrome can lead to brain damage, liver damage, and death. But if the disease
is found and treated early, most children recover from Reye syndrome in a
few weeks and have no lasting problems.
Experts don't know what
causes Reye syndrome. It often happens in children who have recently had
the flu and who took medicines that contain
Reye syndrome cannot spread from child to child.
Reye syndrome often starts
when a child is recovering from a viral illness, such as the flu or
chickenpox. Symptoms usually
appear 3 to 7 days after the viral illness starts. They may develop over
several hours to a day or two.
The first symptoms may
As liver damage and brain damage get worse, other symptoms may develop,
If Reye syndrome is not treated quickly, it can cause
If your child has symptoms of Reye syndrome, get medical care right away, even if your child has not had a recent viral illness or
taken aspirin. Early treatment makes full
recovery more likely.
Your doctor will
do a physical exam and ask questions about your child's symptoms, recent aspirin use, and past health problems.
Your child may need tests such as blood and urine
liver biopsy, a
CT scan of the head, and a
lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
Reye syndrome is always treated
in a hospital, often in the intensive care unit (ICU). The goal is to stop damage to the
brain and liver and to prevent other problems. While in the hospital, your child will receive medicines to reduce brain swelling and will get other supportive care.
Reye syndrome can be scary for you and your child.
Remember that most children recover with no problems. To help yourself and your
child feel better:
The most important
step you can take to prevent Reye syndrome is to not give aspirin or any product that contains aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless a doctor has prescribed it.
Always read the label before giving medicine to your child. Aspirin is found in
over-the-counter medicines, including ones you might not expect it to be in, such as Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate, and Alka Seltzer. Aspirin is also called:
Some childhood health problems may require treatment with aspirin. In these cases, make sure you have clear guidance from your doctor about giving aspirin to your child. If your child is taking aspirin and gets chickenpox or the
flu, call your doctor right away.
Learning about Reye syndrome:
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and
Stroke (NINDS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, is the leading
U.S. federal government agency supporting research on brain and nervous system
disorders. It provides the public with educational materials and information
about these disorders.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers a
variety of educational materials about parenting,
general growth and development, immunizations, safety, disease prevention, and more. AAP guidelines for various conditions and links to other
organizations are also available.
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
The National Reye's Syndrome Foundation (NRSF) provides information about
the risks of using aspirin and other salicylates. The group strives to raise
awareness about early detection and support families affected by Reye's
syndrome. The website has a list of ingredients to avoid during viral
Other Works Consulted
Brown LW (2006). Reye syndrome. In FD Burg et al., eds., Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th ed., pp. 417–420. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Hurwitz ES (2009). Reye syndrome. In RD Feigin et al., eds., Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 6th ed., vol. 1, pp. 693–694. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
May 16, 2012
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Chuck Norlin, MD - Pediatrics
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