Reyes syndrome is a serious but rare condition. It causes a build up of fat and swelling in most organs. Reyes is most harmful to the liver and and brain.
It tends to occur during recovery from a viral infection. Early treatment is important for a recovery.
The cause of Reyes syndrome is unknown.
Reyes occurs most often in children aged 2-16 years but can occur in anyone. Factors that may increase the risk of Reyes syndrome include:
Recent viral illness, including:
Upper respiratory infectionInfluenza
or other salicylates
especially in children during viral illness (like flu or chickenpox)
Fatty 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 speechHallucinationsConvulsionsHyperventilation—rapid or deep breathingLoss of consciousness
Later symptoms may progress to: ComaSeizuresInability to breathe without help
Call a doctor immediately 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. Blood tests will be done to evaluate the liver function. To eliminate possibility of other illnesses or disease, your doctor may order tests such as: Spinal tap
—to look for infections of the spine or brain
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 may also be given through 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: Ventilator—to take over breathingDrainage procedure or decompression craniotomy—to reduce pressure in the brain
The exact cause of Reyes 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.
Kleigman RM, Jensen HB, Behrman RE, Stanton BF, eds.
Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics.
18th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.
Last reviewed November 2012 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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