Reye's syndrome

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:47 pm
Reye's (RIZE) syndrome is a potentially fatal disease of the brain and liver. Ralph Douglas Reye (RYE) was an Australian pathologist who first described the syndrome in young children, and the condition soon after became known as 'Reye's syndrome.' It's not known exactly what causes the disease, although it usually occurs in a child who's had a viral infection with a high fever, such as chicken pox, flu, or an acute upper-respiratory infection. The child generally appears to be improving, then suddenly has a spell of repeated vomiting and nausea. Other symptoms include irritability, confusion, and lethargy. It mostly seems to strike children under age 18 who've been given aspirin or other medications that contain salicylates (suh-LIH-suh-lates), such as bismuth subsalicylates. If your child is sick, especially with a possible viral infection such as flu or chicken pox, you should avoid giving such medications. Reye's syndrome has been on the decline since 1980, which is largely attributed to the widespread substitution of acetaminophen (uh-see-tuh-MIN-nuh-fen) and other medications for aspirin. Children who get Reye's syndrome must be hospitalized, so if you notice any possible symptoms, call a healthcare professional.

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