Definition

Reye syndrome is a serious but rare condition. It causes a buildup 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.

Causes

The cause of Reye syndrome is unknown.

Risk Factors

Reye syndrome occurs most often in children aged 2-16 years, but it can occur in anyone. Factors that may increase the risk of Reye syndrome include:

    
  • Use of aspirin or other salicylates, especially in children during viral illness like the flu or chickenpox
  • Recent viral illness, including:     
  • Influenza
  • Chickenpox
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Fatty acid oxidation disorder
  • Exposure to certain toxins
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms usually occur after a viral illness and may include:

        
  • Frequent or persistent vomiting
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Personality changes, such as irritability and aggression
  • Confusion
  • Disordered speech
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Rapid or deep breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Later symptoms may progress to:

        
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Inability to breathe without help
  • Call a doctor right away if you or your child has any of these symptoms, especially after a viral infection.

    Diagnosis

    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 tests
  • Spinal tap
  • Biopsy
  • Spinal Tap–Lumbar Puncture Method

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    Treatment

    Early diagnosis and treatment are important for a successful recovery.

    Treatment is focused on protecting the brain and other organs from damage. Options include:

    Medication

    Medications may help to:

        
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Lower pressure of fluid in the brain
  • Prevent seizures
  • Reduce vomiting
  • Reduce blood ammonia levels—may also require dialysis
  • Glucose and electrolytes will be given by IV.

    Monitoring

    The brain, heart, and lungs will be carefully monitored. This will help the doctor begin supportive treatments as soon as possible.

    Advanced Care

    As the condition progresses, more care may be needed. Some advanced care options include:

        
  • Ventilator—to take over breathing
  • Drainage procedure or decompression craniotomy—to reduce pressure in the brain
  • Prevention

    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.