What is Reye Syndrome?

RENO, Nev (KOLO) There are plenty of aspirin products on the grocery store aisle. But look on the back of any of them, and you will find a warning about Reye Syndrome.

Photo: MGN Online

“People were able to associate flu, cold and chickenpox and the use of aspirin. And that combination gave rise to Reye Syndrome,” says Dr. Max Coppes, Chairman of Pediatrics with the University of Nevada Reno, School of Medicine.

Even today, Dr. Coppes says we don't know what causes the disease.
What we do know is the syndrome causes a child's brain to swell, and liver damage may accompany the syndrome. If not treated it can be fatal.

Symptoms don't come on right away. Rather Dr. Coppes says it almost appears as if the child has just recovered from the flu or cold caused by a virus.

“They start getting sick a little bit again, hearing problems, eye problems, not really paying attention, some have seizures. That is when it is actually really bad,” says Dr. Coppes.

The syndrome mostly impacts young kids all the way to teens.

At its height there were 555 cases reported, in 1979. These days fewer than two cases are reported nationwide annually.

Dr. Coppes says that's because pediatricians advised parents to avoid giving their children aspirin early on. They continue to do so today.

“It is really being your local pediatrician, as they see the family, reminding people it is flu season; your kid is going to be cranky. Yes, they might be 101; give them Tylenol. Do not give aspirin,” says Dr. Coppes.

For children with fever there are plenty of alternative medications that will relieve that symptom. They contain acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
Make sure the product is made for children and read the directions for proper dosage.

Symptoms of Reye Syndrome include vomiting, lethargy, delirium, and personality changes. They typically appear after the child seems to recover from flu, cold or chickenpox. Seek immediate attention if your child exhibits these symptoms.

Vaccine for the flu and chickenpox has also helped keep the incidents of Reye Syndrome at bay.