Danger: Reye Syndrome

Danger: Reye Syndrome

Dr. Rebecca Butler is Board Certified in Pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is proud to be a resident of Lantana and the owner of Lantana Pediatrics. For more information on Lantana Pediatrics, Dr. Butler and/or Melanie Bitzer, CPNP or to schedule an appointment with one of these providers, call the office at 940.455.7200.

Flu season is once again upon us and I feel it is very important to remind parents about an uncommon but very serious illness with a higher risk of occurrence this time of year.
Reye syndrome (often referred to as Reye’s syndrome) is a rare but very serious illness that usually occurs in children younger than fifteen years of age. It can affect all organs of the body, but most often injures the brain and the liver.

Reye syndrome is preceded by a viral infection, most commonly chickenpox or influenza. Although no one knows precisely what causes Reye syndrome, it affects only a small number of children, and is strongly associated with salicylate-containing medications during the viral infection. These medications included, but are not limited to, aspirin and Pepto-Bismol. Many over-the-counter medications containing salicyclates so please read ALL labels carefully.

Signs and Symptoms:
Whenever your child has a viral illness, be alert for the following pattern typical of Reye syndrome: Your child may develop a viral infection, such as influenza, an upper respiratory illness, or chickenpox, and then seem to be improving as most healthy children do. The concern is when your child develops severe symptoms following recovery from the initial illness.

Reye syndrome can start from 1 day to 2 weeks after a viral infection. The viral illnesses that lead to it are contagious, but the syndrome itself is not.

Symptoms Include:
• Frequent vomiting
• Tiredness or sleepiness
• In babies, diarrhea and rapid breathing
• Irritability or aggressive behavior

Other symptoms include changes in vision, difficulty hearing, and abnormal speech. In the later stages, a child may behave irrationally; be confused; or have severe muscle weakness, seizures, and loss of consciousness. There usually is no fever.

Call your pediatrician as soon as you suspect that your child’s illness is following this pattern. If your doctor is not available, take your child to the nearest emergency department. It is very important to diagnose this illness as early as possible.

Since the medical community issued a public warning against the use of aspirin during viral illnesses, the number of cases of Reye syndrome has decreased greatly.

Many over-the-counter (OTC) medications contain salicylates, so be sure to read the labels and talk to your health care provider if you’re not sure whether a medication is safe for your child.

In general, aspirin (salicylates) should not be used for kids or teenagers except on the advice of a doctor for certain conditions.

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