Reye syndrome is a serious but rare condition. It causes a build-up of fat and swelling in most organs. Reye is most harmful to the liver and brain.
It tends to occur during recovery from a viral infection.
The cause of Reye syndrome is unknown.
Reye syndrome occurs most often in children aged 2-16 years, but it can occur in anyone. Other factors that may increase the chance of Reye syndrome include:
Symptoms usually occur after a viral illness and may include:
- Frequent or persistent vomiting
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Personality changes, such as irritability and aggression
- Disordered speech
- Rapid or deep breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Later symptoms may progress to:
- Inability to breathe without help
Call a doctor right away if you or your child has any of these symptoms, especially after a viral infection.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Spinal Tap–Lumbar Puncture Method
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 inflammation
- Lower pressure of fluid in the brain
- Prevent seizures
- Reduce vomiting
- Reduce blood ammonia levels—may also require dialysis
Glucose and electrolytes will be given by 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:
- Mechanical ventilation—to take over breathing
- Drainage procedure or decompression craniotomy—to reduce pressure in the brain
The exact cause of Reye syndrome 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.
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
National Reye's Syndrome Foundation
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Alberta Human Services
Reye Syndrome. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/reye. Updated January 14, 2015. Accessed June 21, 2016.
Reye syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114525/Reye-syndrome. Updated July 20, 2010. Accessed June 21, 2016.
Reyes syndrome. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/reyes_syndrome/reyes_syndrome.htm. Accessed September 25, 2009. Accessed June 21, 2016.
What is Reyes Syndrome? National Reyes Syndrome website. Available at: http://reyessyndrome.org/what.html. Accessed June 21, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, 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.