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.
What causes Reye syndrome?
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.
What are the symptoms?
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
Sudden retching or vomiting.
of energy and loss of interest in things.
Strange behavior, such as
staring, irritability, personality changes, and slurred
As liver damage and brain damage get worse, other symptoms may develop,
Confusion. Your child may not know where he
or she is, recognize family or friends, or be able to answer simple questions.
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:
Talk with your doctor and the hospital staff
about any questions or concerns you have about your child's
Stay with your child, or visit often if you are not allowed to
stay with your child in the ICU.
Let your child have some favorite
toys or belongings while in the hospital. This will help your child feel more
Can Reye syndrome be prevented?
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:
Salicylate or subsalicylate.
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.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and
NIH Neurological Institute
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
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.
American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Boulevard
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098
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.
KidsHealth for Parents, Children, and
Nemours Home Office
10140 Centurion Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32256
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.
National Reye's Syndrome Foundation
P.O. Box 829
Bryan, OH 43506
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
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.