Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.
Your Location is set to Change My Location
Cone Health wants to help you get well and stay well. This section provides tools and information to achieve good health and maintain your well-being.
Learn what community resources are available to help you get well and stay well.
View health and wellness news you can use from Cone Health providers on
View Advanced Search OptionsView All Doctors
View All Locations
Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Reye Syndrome
Committed to Safety: As we resume services, we are taking all necessary precautions to keep you safe while we care for you. Please note that visitor restrictions remain in place. Get more information on COVID-19.
Reye syndrome is a rare but serious disease that most often affects children ages 6 to 12 years old. It can cause brain swelling and liver damage. It may be related to using aspirin to treat viral infections.
Reye syndrome can lead to brain damage, liver damage, and death. But if the disease is found and treated early, most children recover from Reye syndrome in a few weeks and have no lasting problems.
Experts don't know what causes Reye syndrome. It often happens in children who have recently had chickenpox or the flu and who took medicines that contain aspirin.
Reye syndrome cannot spread from child to child.
Reye syndrome often starts when a child is recovering from a viral illness, such as the flu or chickenpox. Symptoms usually appear 3 to 7 days after the viral illness starts. They may develop over several hours to a day or two.
The first symptoms may include:
As liver damage and brain damage get worse, other symptoms may develop, including:
If Reye syndrome is not treated quickly, it can cause death.
If your child has symptoms of Reye syndrome, get medical care right away, even if your child has not had a recent viral illness or taken aspirin. Early treatment makes full recovery more likely.
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions about your child's symptoms, recent aspirin use, and past health problems.
Your child may need tests such as blood and urine tests, a liver biopsy, a CT scan of the head, and a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
Reye syndrome is always treated in a hospital, often in the intensive care unit (ICU). The goal is to stop damage to the brain and liver and to prevent other problems. While in the hospital, your child will receive medicines to reduce brain swelling and will get other supportive care.
Reye syndrome can be scary for you and your child. Remember that most children recover with no problems. To help yourself and your child feel better:
The most important step you can take to prevent Reye syndrome is to not give aspirin or any product that contains aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless a doctor has prescribed it.
Always read the label before giving medicine to your child. Aspirin is found in many over-the-counter medicines, including ones you might not expect it to be in, such as Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate, and Alka-Seltzer. Aspirin is also called:
Some childhood health problems may require treatment with aspirin. In these cases, make sure you have clear guidance from your doctor about giving aspirin to your child. If your child is taking aspirin and gets chickenpox or the flu, call your doctor right away.
Other Works Consulted
Brown LW (2006). Reye syndrome. In FD Burg et al., eds., Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th ed., pp. 417–420. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Hurwitz ES (2009). Reye syndrome. In RD Feigin et al., eds., Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 6th ed., vol. 1, pp. 693–694. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Current as of:
August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: John Pope MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Subscribe to our Wellness Matters e-newsletter, a monthly snapshot of the some of great wellness content from Cone Health providers.