This Is Reye’s Syndrome

Reye’s syndrome is a serious disorder that may follow a viral infection, such as chicken pox, influenza or a minor respiratory illness. Reye’s syndrome is considered an acute, life-threatening disorder.

When Reye’s syndrome occurs, the liver begins to swell and fat deposits form. Blood sugar levels drop, high levels of ammonia and acid form in the blood and the brain swells.


Reye’s syndrome is associated with giving aspirin to children with a viral infection. If the disorder is diagnosed and treated early, the child’s chance of survival is greatest.


  • persistent nausea and vomiting following a viral infection
  • drowsiness, stupor, loss of consciousness or coma
  • delirium, seizures or convulsions


The symptoms generally start a week after the viral infection. Nausea and vomiting for one to three days is followed by a progressive decline in a child’s mental alertness. Hospitalization in an intensive care unit is often required where medications and vital signs can be monitored. Intravenous medications are administered. Glucose and electrolyte solutions are given to correct blood chemistry levels. Surgery may be necessary to reduce the pressure on the brain caused by swelling.


Never give aspirin to children under 18 years of age for any illness, especially viral infections. With a few exceptions, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given.

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