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A rare disorder in children and adolescents that involves the brain and other major organs that affects children from infancy through adolescence.

Signs & Symptons

  • Confusion.
  • Lethargy.
  • Personality changes.
  • Seizures.
  • Weakness and paralysis in an arm or leg.
  • Double vision.
  • Speech impairment.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Drowsiness that progresses to coma.


Not yet known. Reye’s syndrome usually follows a virus infection. Some studies link it to the use of aspirin during a viral illness, especially chickenpox and ‘flu.

Risk Increases With

  • Recent viral illness, such as chickenpox, influenza or other respiratory illness.
  • Use of aspirin.
  • Genetic factors.


Don’t give a child aspirin for any illness with fever until the doctor has diagnosed it. If the illness is diagnosed as viral, DON’T USE ASPIRIN.

Diagnostic Measures

  • Observation of symptoms.
  • History and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory studies, such as blood studies of liver function and an analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (from the spine).

Possible Complications

Permanent brain damage, coma or death caused by pressure on the brain.

Probable Outcomes

With treatment, 80% of patients survive. Most recover completely, but some have varying degrees of brain damage.


General Measures

No specific instructions except those listed under other headings.


Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Intravenous fluids.
  • Anticoagulant drugs to prevent blood-clot formation during prolonged bed rest.
  • Drugs, to reduce cerebral swelling.
  • Antibiotics to fight secondary bacterial infections, if they develop.


Bed rest is necessary until the acute stage is over. Reading or watching TV is acceptable. Normal activities may then be resumed gradually.

Contact your Doctor

  • Your child has any symptoms of Reye’s syndrome.
  • Call at the first sign of confusion, lethargy or other mental changes! This is an emergency!
  • After hospitalization, any symptoms of Reye’s syndrome recur or the child develops fever.
  • New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.