Reye's Syndrome

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Reye's syndrome facts

  • Reye's syndrome is a rare and severe illness affecting children.
  • Reye's syndrome is associated with viral infection and aspirin use.
  • Patients with Reye's syndrome present with vomiting and mental-status changes.
  • Diagnosing Reye's syndrome primarily depends on the clinical history of symptoms.
  • The most common abnormal laboratory tests with Reye's syndrome include elevated liver enzymes, elevated ammonia levels, and low serum glucose levels.
  • Treatment is supportive, and even with treatment, severe cases result in permanent brain damage and death.
  • Since educating parents about the dangers of aspirin use, the incidence of Reye's syndrome has decreased markedly.

What is Reye's syndrome?

Reye's syndrome is a rare but often severe and even fatal illness that primarily occurs in children and adolescents. Children diagnosed with Reye's syndrome generally present with vomiting and mental-status changes. The illness can resolve spontaneously or progress to coma and death. Although the cause is still unclear, studies have identified that there is a relationship between some viral infections and the use of aspirin medications. The CDC recommended educating parents about the dangers of treating children with aspirin in the 1980s, and now the disease occurs very rarely. The syndrome was initially described in 1963 by Dr. Ralph Douglas Reye.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2016

Slideshow: Children's Health - Childhood Illnesses Every Parent Should Know

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Prevention of Reye's Syndrome

What to Do if You Get the Flu

If you get the flu, there are treatments that can reduce both the intensity and duration of your suffering:

  • Over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers, decongestants, and antihistamines can reduce the severity of your symptoms, but these are not treatments for the viral infection itself. There are over-the-counter flu preparations available that combine these types of medications. (Remember that aspirin should not be given to those under 18 years of age because of its association with Reye syndrome, a serious condition that affects the nervous system and the liver.)