Reye’s Syndrome (RS) was first reported on in 1963 by R. Douglas ‘s, an Australian pathologist. There seems to be a link between the use of aspirin (salicylate) or other aspirin containing products either during a viral disease or toward the end of the disease. The two most common are the flu (Influenza) or the Chicken Pox. Reye’s Syndrome is usually found in children from 4 to 14 years old, although it can strike anyone from infancy to adulthood.
The number of cases of RS has continually decreased since the link between viruses and aspirin products was first made and doctors began emphasizing the importance of not using aspirin when a child is experiencing a viral illness. The flu and chicken pox tend to occur in the winter months. The campaign to wipe out Reye’s Syndrome completely, continues through educating the parents not to mix children with aspirin.
Reye’s Syndrome can start from day 1 to 2 weeks after the viral infection. The symptoms may be mild, even not recognized, but it also can be severe and require aggressive action. The viral infection that led to Reye’s Syndrome is contagious but the Syndrome itself is not. Early treatment increases the chances of a successful recovery.
The symptoms are usually frequent vomiting, sleepiness or tiredness, and mental-status changes. Babies may have diarrhea, irritability and rapid breathing. Other symptoms may include: A change in vision, difficulty hearing, and abnormal speech. The child may seem confused or have severe muscle weakness, seizures, and loss of consciousness. The child will probably not have a fever.
When the lab work is done the tests will show elevated liver enzymes (without jaundice) and ammonia level, and low serum glucose levels. The toxins cause increased pressure in the brain with swelling that leads to brain dysfunction and could possibly lead to death. Reyes is often mistaken for a number of other diseases such as: Meningitis, Encephalitis, Diabetes, Drug Overdose, Sudden Infant Death, Toxic Ingestion, Head Trauma, Head Trauma, Renal or Hepatic Failure, or poisoning. It is vital that the parent to encourage the doctor to look twice and consider Reye’s Syndrome.
There is no cure for Reye’s Syndrome. The treatment is generally supportive.
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