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Reye Syndrome


Reye syndrome is a serious, but rare condition. It causes a buildup of fat and swelling in most organs. It's most harmful to the liver and brain.

It tends to happen as you get better from a viral infection.


The cause of Reye syndrome is unknown. It's likely to be a combination of your genes and environment.

Risk Factors

Reye syndrome is most common in children aged 2 to 16 years. But, it can happen at any age. Your chances of Reye syndrome are higher for:

  • Using aspirin or aspirin-based products, mainly in children who have a viral infection
  • Having a recent viral illness such as:
  • Exposure to certain toxins


Symptoms appear after a viral infection passes. They worsen as time passes.

Common ones are:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Feeling tired and sleepy
  • Personality changes
  • Confusion
  • Speaking problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid or deep breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Later symptoms may progress to:

  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Inability to breathe without help

Call a doctor right away if you or your child has any of these. Especially after a viral infection.


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. Your answers and a physical exam may point to Reye syndrome.

You may also have:


The earlier Reye syndrome is treated, the faster you'll get better.

The goal is to protect the brain and other organs from damage. This can be done with:


These are used to:

  • Ease inflammation
  • Lower pressure of fluid in the brain
  • Prevent seizures
  • Ease vomiting
  • Lower blood ammonia levels—may also require dialysis

Nutrients and fluids are given through an IV.


The brain, heart, and lungs will be carefully watched. This way, any further care can be started right away.

Advanced Care

As the condition progresses, more care may be needed. Advanced care methods may involve:


To help lower the chances of Reye syndrome:

  • Don't give aspirin to children and teens with a current or recent viral infection. Check with their doctor before giving aspirin to a child or teen.
  • Avoid giving children and teens common medicines with aspirin-based products. If you have questions, ask their doctor or pharmacist.

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics

National Reye's Syndrome Foundation


About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children

Health Canada


Reye syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114525/Reye-syndrome. Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2018.

Reye syndrome. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/miscellaneous-disorders-in-infants-and-children/reye-syndrome. Updated February 2017. Accessed August 24, 2018.

Reye's syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Reyes-Syndrome-Information-Page. Updated July 2, 2018. Accessed August 24, 2018.

What is Reye's syndrome? American Liver Foundation website. Available at: https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/diseases-of-the-liver/reye-syndrome. Accessed August 24, 2018.

What is Reye's syndrome? National Reyes Syndrome website. Available at: http://reyessyndrome.org/what.html. Accessed August 24, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 8/24/2018