What causes Reye's Syndrome?
The cause is unknown; but a number of studies suggest a link between the development of Reye's syndrome and the use of aspirin to treat the viral Infection which precedes it. These studies did not prove that aspirin is the only cause of Reye's syndrome but showed that it can precipitate it in the presence of other factors such as a viral infection and possibly some innate susceptibility.
Children under 16 years should also not take any products containing:
- acetylsalicylic acid
- salicylic acid
- salicylate salts
Aspirin should only be given to children under 16 on the advice of a doctor.
Because there are alternatives, there is no need to use aspirin for feverish illnesses in childhood. Since 1986, aspirin preparations have been labelled with differing warnings. The latest advice from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which came into force on 1st October 2003, requires all aspirin products to carry a warning that children under 16 should not take aspirin unless on the advice of a doctor. The warning that appears on the Carton/Label and Patient Information Leaflet is as follows.
Carton/Label: Aspirin Products
DO NOT GIVE TO CHILDREN AGED UNDER 16 YEARS, UNLESS ON THE ADVICE OF A DOCTOR
Patient Information Leaflet: Aspirin Products
THERE IS A POSSIBLE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN ASPIRIN AND REYE’S SYNDROME WHEN GIVEN TO CHILDREN. REYE’S SYNDROME IS A VERY RARE DISEASE WHICH CAN BE FATAL. FOR THIS REASON ASPIRIN SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN TO CHILDREN AGED UNDER 16 YEARS, UNLESS ON THE ADVICE OF A DOCTOR
On 23rd April 2009 the MHRA issued precautionary advice for topical oral pain relief gels containing salicylate salts. The main products affected are Bonjela and Bonjela Cool Mint Gel. This is due to salicylate salts having the same affect on the body as aspirin. The new advice recommends these products are not used in those under 16 years of age. This is a precautionary measure only and there are no new safety concerns.
Carton/Label, Tube, Patient Information Leaflet: Topical Oral Pain Relief Gels
DO NOT GIVE TO CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS UNDER 16 YEARS OF AGE THIS IS BECAUSE THERE IS A POSSIBLE ASSOCIATION/ LINK * BETWEEN SALICYLATES AND REYE’S SYNDROME WHEN GIVEN TO CHILDREN. REYE’S SYNDROME IS A VERY RARE DISEASE WHICH AFFECTS THE BRAIN AND LIVER AND CAN BE FATAL.
Because aspirin is readily available in supermarkets and pharmacies throughout the United Kingdom, 'aspirin' often makes headline news about the positive effects its use can have for adults. As a consequence when it comes to their children, parents become complacent, and do not notice or ignore the warning about the potentially devastating effect the drug can have upon children and young people if given for a viral infection. It is important that all parents heed this warning.
Next review December 2019