In Reye's syndrome, a child's blood sugar level typically drops while the levels of ammonia and acidity in his or her blood rise. At the same time, the liver may swell and develop fatty deposits. Swelling may also occur in the brain, which can cause seizures, convulsions or loss of consciousness.
The signs and symptoms of Reye's syndrome typically appear about three to five days after the onset of a viral infection, such as the flu (influenza) or chickenpox, or an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold.
Initial signs and symptoms
For children younger than age 2, the first signs of Reye's syndrome may include:
For older children and teenagers, early signs and symptoms may include:
- Persistent or continuous vomiting
- Unusual sleepiness or lethargy
Additional signs and symptoms
As the condition progresses, signs and symptoms may become more serious, including:
- Irritable, aggressive or irrational behavior
- Confusion, disorientation or hallucinations
- Weakness or paralysis in the arms and legs
- Excessive lethargy
- Decreased level of consciousness
These signs and symptoms require emergency treatment.
When to see a doctor
Early diagnosis and treatment of Reye's syndrome can save a child's life. If you suspect that your child has Reye's syndrome, it's important to act quickly.
Seek emergency medical help if your child:
- Has seizures or convulsions
- Loses consciousness
Contact your child's doctor if your child experiences the following after a bout with the flu or chickenpox:
Aug. 12, 2014
- Vomits repeatedly
- Becomes unusually sleepy or lethargic
- Has sudden behavior changes
- Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2014: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2014. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed May 25, 2014.
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- NINDS Reye's syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/reyes_syndrome/reyes_syndrome.htm. Accessed May 25, 2014.
- What is Reye's syndrome? National Reye's Syndrome Foundation. http://www.reyessyndrome.org/what.html. Accessed May 25, 2014.
- Chiriboga CA. Acute toxic-metabolic encephalopathy in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 25, 2014.
- Reye's syndrome. The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/miscellaneous_disorders_in_infants_and_children/reyes_syndrome.html. Accessed May 26, 2014.
- Medications containing aspirin (acetylsalicylate) and aspirin-like products. National Reye's Syndrome Foundation. http://www.reyessyndrome.org/. Accessed May 28, 2014.
- Renaud DL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 2, 2014.