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Reye Syndrome

Reye syndrome is not a reportable disease in Oklahoma.

Reye syndrome is characterized by sudden acute brain damage and liver function problems.  The cause of Reye syndrome is still unknown.  However, some studies have found a link between Reye syndrome and the use of aspirin or aspirin-containing medications during a viral illness, such as chickenpox or influenza.

Reye syndrome often begins with vomiting, and is quickly followed by irritable or aggressive behavior.  As the condition gets worse, the person may be unable to stay awake and alert.  Other symptoms of Reye syndrome include: confusion, lethargy, loss of consciousness or coma, mental changes, nausea and vomiting, seizures, and unusual placement of arms or legs (decerebrate posture).  Additional symptoms that may occur with this disorder include: double vision, hearing loss, muscle function loss or paralysis of the arms and legs, speech difficulties, and weakness in the arms and legs.

Symptoms of Reye syndrome commonly occur during recovery from a viral infection (influenza, common cold, and chickenpox), but may also develop 3 to 5 days after the onset of viral illness.

There is no specific treatment for Reye syndrome.  The health care provider will monitor the pressure in the brain, blood gases, and blood pH.  Other supportive treatments may include: breathing support, intravenous (IV) fluids to provide electrolytes and glucose, and steroids to reduce swelling in the brain.

Steps to prevent Reye syndrome:

  • Never give a child aspirin or aspirin-containing medications unless told to do so by your doctor.
  • When a child must take aspirin, take care to reduce the child’s risk of catching a viral illness, such as the flu or chickenpox.
  • Avoid aspirin for several weeks after the child has received a varicella (chickenpox) vaccine.

NOTE: Other over-the-counter medications, such as Pepto-Bismol and substances with oil of wintergreen also contain aspirin compounds called salicylates.  Do not give these to a child who has a cold or fever.

Reye Syndrome Fact Sheets and Information:

Reye Syndrome Fact Sheet  (14k.pdf)
  Sindrome de Reye Hoja Informativa (127k.pdf)


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