Reye syndrome is a rare but very serious illness that causes brain swelling and liver damage. It can also affect all of the body’s organs. As the swelling in the brain increases, the pressure inside of the head may also increase. The increased pressure in the head causes nervous system changes in the child.
The condition is most common in children and teens who are recovering from a viral infection. Reye syndrome usually affects children between ages 4 and 12, but it can occur at any age.
Symptoms occur very suddenly. If Rey syndrome is diagnosed and treated early, many children recover fully. But if not treated quickly, Reye syndrome can cause a child to go into a coma, lead to brain damage, or cause death.
A child may have had a viral illness before showing symptoms of Reye syndrome. This may be a respiratory infection, chickenpox, flu, or diarrhea. Symptoms of Reye syndrome occur very quickly. Symptoms may vary, but can include:
The symptoms of Reye syndrome can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will ask about recent viral illness, and if your child has taken aspirin or medicine that contains aspirin. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests such as:
The key is to treat the illness as early as possible. This is a serious illness that can quickly get worse.
A child with Reye syndrome needs to be in the hospital right away. He or she will be put into the intensive care unit (ICU). Here your child will be closely watched by the healthcare team.
The goal of treatment is to monitor and reduce the pressure in the head and to treat symptoms. Medicines are used to control the swelling in the brain, seizures, fever, or other problems. In severe cases, a child may need to be put on a breathing machine (ventilator).
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: