Reye's Syndrome is a two-phase illness because it is almost always associated with a previous viral infection such as influenza (flu), cold, or chicken pox. Scientists do know that Reye's Syndrome is not contagious and the cause is unknown. Reye's Syndrome is often misdiagnosed as encephalitis, meningitis, diabetes, drug overdose, poisoning, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or psychiatric illness.
Reye's Syndrome tends to appear with greatest frequency during January, February, and March when influenza is most common. Cases are reported in every month of the year. An epidemic of flu or chicken pox is commonly followed by an increase in the number of cases of Reye's Syndrome.
When Reye's Syndrome develops, it typically occurs when a person is beginning to recover from a viral illness.
Abnormal accumulations of fat begin to develop in the liver and other organs of the body, along with a severe increase of pressure in the brain. Unless diagnosed and treated successfully, death is common, often within a few days, and even a few hours. A person's life depends upon early diagnosis. Statistics indicate an excellent chance of recovery when Reye's Syndrome is diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages. The later the diagnosis and treatment, the more severely reduced are the chances for successful recovery and survival.
Stage I Symptoms
Stage II Symptoms
Stage III Symptoms
Stage IV Symptoms
Persistent or continuous vomiting
Signs of brain dysfunction:
Loss of pep and energy
NOTE: The symptoms of Reye's Syndrome in infants do not follow a typical pattern. For example, vomiting may be replaced with diarrhea and infants may display irregular breathing.
Suspect Reye's in an Infant with:
* Diarrhea, but not necessarily vomiting
* Respiratory disturbances such as hyperventilation or apneic episodes, seizures and hypoglycemia are common
* Elevated SGOT-SGPT (SAT-ACT) [usually 200 or more units] in the absence of jaundice
Reye's Syndrome should be suspected in a person if this pattern of symptoms appear during, or most commonly, after a viral illness. Not all of the symptoms have to occur, nor do they have to be displayed in this order. Fever is not usually present. Many diseases have symptoms in common. Physicians and medical staff in emergency rooms who have not had experience in treating Reye's Syndrome may misdiagnose the disease.
Suspect Reye's in a Patient with:
For Early Diagnosis:
Unexpected vomiting following any viral illness such as a flu-like upper respiratory infection or chicken pox (usually no diarrhea)
Elevated SGOT-SGPT (SAT-ACT) [usually 200 or more units] in the absence of jaundice
Signs of disturbed brain function characterized by:
* Agitated delirium
* Drug reaction-like behavior
* Extensor spasms
* Decerebrate rigidity
* Aspirin poisoning-like symptoms
* Vomiting, think Reye's
* Emergency SGOT-SGPT (SAT-ACT)
* Elevated blood NH3
* Hypoglycemia and hepatomegaly may be present
* Drug Overdose
* Sudden Infant Death
* Toxic Ingestion
* Head Trauma
* Renal or Hepatic Failure
Reye's is often mistaken for the diagnosis listed above, so encourage your doctor to look twice and to consider ruling out Reye's!
* 10% Glucose in maintenance salt solution
* Maintain airway and brain oxygen
* Consult a teaching hospital or children's hospital
Talking to Tweens and Teens About Aspirin and Other Medications
Join the Effort to Eradicate Reye's
We've created an App for the Android phone and tablets all about Aspirin, from lists of products containing and not containing aspirin, to drug interactions with aspirin, to diseases that aspirin negatively impacts...Learn More
Our Blog is a great way to learn even more about aspirin and children, and get tips and hints about a range of things all centered around Reye's Syndrome and aspirin...Learn More
The Foundation makes a special Reye's Syndrome Information package available to Schools, Health Departments, Human Resource Divisions, and to anyone who would like Reye's Syndrome information...Learn More
Helping themselves, and sharing meds is a serious issue with Tweens and Teens. They do not realize the dangers involved, and often think OTC drugs are harmless. Talk to them about drugs, and Reye's... Learn More
Through Awareness and Education, we can drastically lower the number of Reye's Syndrome cases. To do this, we need your help...Learn More
In 1974, the National Reye's Syndrome Foundation, a children's health advocacy organization, was incorporated as a 501(c)3 charity, with a mission to eradicate the incidence of Reye's Syndrome.
The Foundation does not receive, nor seek, government funding, and relies on the generosity of donors for support of all programs.