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Reye's Syndrome


  • Reye's syndrome (RS) is a condition where parts of your child's cells called mitochondria do not work well. Mitochondria make energy in order for a cell to live and function. With RS, your child's organs, especially his brain and liver, are damaged and their functions disturbed. RS can happen as a child is getting better after having a viral infection, such as the flu or chickenpox. Giving your child aspirin when he is sick increases his risk for getting RS. Reye's syndrome can lead to liver failure and brain swelling. Your child may vomit (throw up), have convulsions (seizures), or be confused. He may be very fussy and irritable or become very hard to wake up.
  • To learn if your child has RS, caregivers will ask you about your child's health conditions and medicines he has taken. There is no single test that can be done to learn if your child has RS. Your child may need blood tests, a CT scan, liver biopsy and lumbar puncture. Your child may need medicine, dialysis, and tubes placed to give him fluids, feed him, and help him breathe. To decrease your child's risk of getting Reye's syndrome, do not give him any medicine that contains aspirin. If RS is found and treated quickly, your child may recover and have no long-lasting medical problems. In some cases, RS can result in lasting problems with how your child's liver works, behavior problems and learning delays.



  • Keep a current list of your child's medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list and the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Give vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's primary healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Ask before you change or stop giving your child his medicines.

Ask for more information about where and when to take your child for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services for your child, ask for information.

Helping prevent Reye's syndrome:

  • Ask your child's caregiver about vaccinations: Infections such as the flu and chickenpox may be prevented by vaccines. Vaccines are shots given by a caregiver to help prevent certain illnesses. Preventing infections can decrease the risk that your child will get Reye's syndrome.
  • Do not give your child aspirin, or medicines that contain aspirin: Always read the label on medicine before giving it to your child. Call your child's caregiver if you do not know if a medicine is safe. Tell other people about the danger of giving aspirin to children.
  • Do not give your child herbal, folk, or over the counter medicine: Do not give your child any medicine unless caregivers tell you to. Medicine that is not ordered or suggested by your child's caregiver may contain the same medicine as aspirin. These products can cause Reye's syndrome.

Other special instructions:

  • Ask your caregiver when you can return to work or school.


  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child does not want to eat.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition, medicines, or care.


  • Your child becomes very hard to wake up.
  • Your child has a convulsion (seizure).
  • Your child is confused and becomes very irritable.
  • Your child is throwing up often.
  • Your child's tummy is painful and swollen.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.