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Health Information For Parents
Reye syndrome is a rare but serious illness that can affect the brain and liver. It’s most common in kids who are recovering from a viral infection.
It’s still not well understood, but studies have linked it to the use of aspirin (salicylates) or aspirin products during illnesses caused by viruses.
In rare cases, it can cause death within hours. Because it can be a life-threatening disorder, Reye syndrome is a medical emergency.
Early detection and treatment are critical. The chances for a full recovery are best when Reye (pronounced: rye) syndrome is treated in its earliest stages.
Reye (or Reye’s) syndrome most often affects kids 4 to 14 years old. The number of cases has dropped greatly since doctors began advising against giving aspirin to kids and teens, especially during viral illnesses.
Most cases happen when viral diseases are epidemic, such as during the winter months or after an outbreak of chickenpox or the flu.
The signs and symptoms of Reye syndrome almost always follow the start of a viral illness, such as an upper respiratory tract infection (a cold, the flu, etc.), a diarrheal illness, or chickenpox.
Reye syndrome can start from 1 day to 2 weeks after a viral infection. Symptoms include:
Other symptoms include changes in vision, trouble hearing, and abnormal speech. In the later stages, a child may:
Even though it’s rare, Reye syndrome should be considered if a child is vomiting a lot or shows a change in mental status or behavior, particularly after a recent viral illness.
Children with Reye syndrome are usually treated in a hospital. Those who are seriously ill will be cared for in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Treatment is supportive, as there is no cure. The clinical care team will:
Tests done can include blood tests to check electrolytes and liver function and an imaging study of the brain (CAT scan or MRI).
A child also might get:
If seizures happen, they’ll be treated with medicines. Some kids might need breathing help from a breathing machine or respirator if their breathing gets too slow or ineffective.
The outlook for children with Reye syndrome has improved thanks to earlier diagnosis and better treatment. If the late stages of the syndrome happen, they can cause brain damage, disability, or death.
Call your doctor or get medical help right away if your child:
This is even more important if your child has had a recent viral illness, such as the flu or a cold.
Of course, many kids with viruses will have some of these symptoms, and most will not have Reye syndrome. But it’s best to be sure because early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment of Reye syndrome.
Never use aspirin or other drugs from the salicylate (suh-LISS-uh-late) family to treat chickenpox, the flu, or any other viral diseases. Many over-the-counter (OTC) medicines contain salicylates, including bismuth subsalicylate (for instance, Pepto-Bismol). Be sure to read the labels and talk to your health care provider if you’re not sure whether a medicine is safe for your child.
In general, kids and teens should not take aspirin (salicylates) except on the advice of a doctor for certain conditions.
Most teens get between two and four colds each year. Read this article for the facts on colds and ways to feel better when you catch one.
Every year from October to May, millions of people across the United States come down with the flu. Get the facts on the flu – including how to avoid it.
The flu usually makes kids feel worse than if they have a cold. But it’s not always easy to tell the difference. Here are tips on what to look for â and what to do.
Doctors order basic blood chemistry tests to assess a wide range of conditions and the function of organs.
Fevers happen when the body’s internal “thermostat” raises the body temperature above normal. This is often the body’s way of fighting infections.
Colds are the most common infectious disease in the United States – and the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school.
Flu symptoms tend to come on quickly and are worse than the sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. The flu is very contagious. Find out what to do in this article for parents.
What are fevers? Why do kids get them? Get the facts on temperatures and fevers in this article for kids.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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