National Reyes Syndrome Foundation UK

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Information for Parents, Young Adults and General Public

Introduction: What is Reye's Syndrome?

Reye's syndrome is a very rare disorder which affects children and young persons when they seem to be recovering from a viral infection like 'flu', chickenpox or diarrhoea.  The child has a change in his/her personality or becomes drowsy and develops frequent or persistent vomiting.   Unless diagnosed and treated successfully, death or severe disability may result. The disease affects children from infancy onwards, including young persons and has been reported, albeit rarely in older adults. Children of both sexes and all races can be affected.

In Reye’s syndrome, it's thought that tiny structures within the cells called mitochondria become damaged. Mitochondria provide cells with energy and they’re particularly important for the healthy functioning of the liver.  If the liver loses its energy supply, it begins to fail. This can cause a dangerous build-up of toxic chemicals in the blood, which can damage the entire body and can cause the brain to swell.

Aspirin should only be given to children under 16 on the advice of a doctor when it is felt the potential benefits outweigh the risks. For example, it may be recommended for children with the rare condition Kawasaki disease.


Next review December 2019