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Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Definition

Reye syndrome is a buildup of fat and swelling in most organs. It's most harmful to the liver and brain. It is a serious but rare condition.

Causes

The cause is not known. It may be a combination of genetics and the environment.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in children 2 to 16 years of age. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Using aspirin or aspirin-based products, mainly in children who have a viral infection
  • Having a recent viral illness such as:
  • Exposure to certain toxins

Symptoms

Symptoms often appear after a viral infection passes. They worsen with time.

Common problems are:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Feeling tired and sleepy
  • Personality changes
  • Confusion
  • Speaking problems
  • Sensing something that is not real, such as seeing things that are not there
  • Rapid or deep breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Problems breathing

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked if you had a recent viral illness. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to suspect the diagnosis.

Other tests may be:

Lumbar Puncture
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Treatment

There is no cure. Emergency care will be needed, such as monitoring vital signs and giving IV fluids.

The goal of treatment is to protect the brain and other organs from damage. Choices are:

Medicine

These are used to:

  • Ease inflammation
  • Lower pressure of fluid in the brain
  • Prevent seizures
  • Lower blood ammonia levels

Advanced Care

Some people may need more advanced care. Choices are:

Prevention

Do not give aspirin or aspirin products to a child or teen with a current or recent viral infection.

RESOURCES

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics  https://www.healthychildren.org 

National Reye's Syndrome Foundation  http://www.reyessyndrome.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children  https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca 

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 

References

Gallucci M, Smith JD, et al. Pediatric Inflammatory Diseases. Part IV: Miscellaneous, Reye, PRES, Sarcoidosis. Neuroradiol J. 2012 Dec 20;25(6):725-738.

Reye syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/reye-syndrome. Accessed November 30, 2020.

Reye syndrome. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/miscellaneous-disorders-in-infants-and-children/reye-syndrome. Accessed November 30, 2020.

Reye's syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Reyes-Syndrome-Information-Page. Accessed November 30, 2020.

What is Reye's syndrome? American Liver Foundation website. Available at: https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/diseases-of-the-liver/reye-syndrome. Accessed November 30, 2020.

What is Reye's syndrome? National Reyes Syndrome website. Available at: http://reyessyndrome.org/what.html. Accessed November 30, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2020
  • Update Date: 04/23/2021