What is Reye’s syndrome?
Reye’s (Ryes) syndrome is a rare but serious condition that causes swelling in the liver and brain. Reye’s syndrome most often affects children and teenagers recovering from a viral infection, most commonly the flu or chickenpox.
Signs and symptoms such as confusion, seizures and loss of consciousness require emergency treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment of Reye’s syndrome can save a child’s life.
Aspirin has been linked with Reye’s syndrome, so use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
How common is Reye’s syndrome?
Reye syndrome is a rare disorder of childhood and adolescence. It primarily affects individuals under 18 years of age, particularly children from approximately age four to 12 years. In rare cases, infants or young adults may be affected. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of Reye’s syndrome?
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 include:
- Sudden retching or vomiting.
- Lack of energy and loss of interest in things.
- Strange behavior, such as staring, irritability, personality changes, and slurred speech.
As liver damage and brain damage get worse, other symptoms may develop, including:
- Your child may not know where he or she is, recognize family or friends, or be able to answer simple questions.
- Fast, deep breathing (hyperventilation).
- Violent behavior, such as hitting others without reason.
- Seizures and coma.
If Reye syndrome is not treated quickly, it can cause death.
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.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
Seek emergency medical help if your child:
- Has seizures or convulsions
- Loses consciousness
Contact your child’s doctor if your child experiences the following after a bout with the flu or chickenpox:
- Vomits repeatedly
- Becomes unusually sleepy or lethargic
- Has sudden behavior changes
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes Reye’s syndrome?
Experts don’t know what causes Reye syndrome. It often happens in children who have recently had chickenpox or the flu and who took medicines that contain aspirin.
Reye syndrome cannot spread from child to child.
What increases my risk for Reye’s syndrome?
There are many risk factors for Reye’s syndrome, such as:
- Using aspirin to treat a viral infection, such as flu, chickenpox or an upper respiratory infection
- Having an underlying fatty acid oxidation disorder
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is Reye’s syndrome diagnosed?
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 tests, a liver biopsy, a CT scan of the head, and a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
How is Reye’s syndrome treated?
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 care.
- 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 secure.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Reye’s syndrome?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Reye’s syndrome:
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: July 29, 2017 | Last Modified: December 9, 2019
Reye's syndrome. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/reyes-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20020083. Accessed July 31, 2017.
Reye Syndrome - Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/children/tc/reyes-syndrome-topic-overview#1. Accessed July 31, 2017.
Reye Syndrome. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/reye-syndrome/. Accessed July 31, 2017.