Reye syndrome is a serious but rare condition. It causes a build-up of fat and swelling in most organs. Reye is most harmful to the liver and brain.
It tends to occur during recovery from a viral infection.
The cause of Reye syndrome is unknown.
Reye syndrome occurs most often in children aged 2-16 years, but it can occur in anyone. Other factors that may increase the chance of Reye syndrome include: Use of
or other salicylates,
especially in children during viral illness like the flu or chickenpox
Recent viral illness, including:
InfluenzaChickenpoxUpper respiratory infectionFatty acid oxidation disorderExposure to certain toxins
Symptoms usually occur after a viral illness and may include: Frequent or persistent vomitingDrowsiness and fatiguePersonality changes, such as irritability and aggressionConfusionDisordered speechHallucinationsConvulsionsRapid or deep breathingLoss of consciousness
Later symptoms may progress to: ComaSeizuresInability to breathe without help
Call a doctor right away if you or your child has any of these symptoms, especially after a viral infection.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with: Blood testsLumbar punctureBiopsy
Spinal Tap–Lumbar Puncture Method
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Early diagnosis and treatment are important for a successful recovery.
Treatment is focused on protecting the brain and other organs from damage. Options include:
Medications may help to: Decrease inflammationLower pressure of fluid in the brainPrevent seizuresReduce vomitingReduce blood ammonia levels—may also require dialysis
Glucose and electrolytes will
be given by IV.
The brain, heart, and lungs will be carefully monitored. This will help the doctor begin supportive treatments as soon as possible.
As the condition progresses, more care may be needed. Some advanced care options include: Mechanical ventilation—to take over breathingDrainage procedure or decompression craniotomy—to reduce pressure in the brain
The exact cause of Reye syndrome is not known, but the following may decrease the risk of Reyes syndrome: Do not give aspirin to children and teens with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving aspirin to a child or teen.Avoid giving children and teens medications that contain salicylates. Examples include Alka-Seltzer, Anacin, Bufferin, and Pepto-Bismol.
Reye Syndrome. American Liver Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/reye. Updated October 4, 2011. Accessed August 5, 2013.
Reyes syndrome. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/reyes_syndrome/reyes_syndrome.htm. Accessed February 28, 2013.
Updated September 25, 2009. Accessed August 5, 2013.
What is Reyes Syndrome? National Reyes Syndrome website. Available at:
http://reyessyndrome.org/what.html. Accessed August 5, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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