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Reye Syndrome

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Reye Syndrome

(Acute toxic metabolic encephalopathy in children)


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


The cause of Reye syndrome is not known. It may be a combination of genetics and the environment.

Risk Factors

Reye syndrome is more common in children 2 to 16 years of age. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Using aspirin or aspirin-based products, mainly in kids who have a viral infection
  • Having a recent viral illness such as:
  • Exposure to certain toxins
  • Having some rare genetic metabolic issues


Symptoms often appear after a viral infection passes. They get worse with time.

A person with Reye syndrome may have:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Feeling tired and sleepy
  • Personality changes
  • Confusion
  • Speaking problems
  • Sensing something that is not real, such as seeing things that are not there
  • Rapid or deep breathing, or breathing problems
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. The doctor may also ask about any recent viral illnesses. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to suspect Reye syndrome.

Other tests may be:

Lumbar Puncture.

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The goal of treatment is to protect the brain and other organs from damage. There is no cure for Reye syndrome. Emergency care will be needed, such as watching vital signs and giving IV fluids.

Choices are:


Do not give aspirin or aspirin products to a child or teen with a current or recent viral infection.


These may be given to:

  • Ease swelling
  • Lower pressure of fluid in the brain
  • Prevent seizures
  • Lower ammonia levels in the blood


These may be given to:

  • Ease swelling
  • Lower pressure of fluid in the brain
  • Prevent seizures
  • Lower ammonia levels in the blood

Advanced Care

Some people may need more advanced care. The doctor may advise:





  • Pugliese, A., Beltramo, T., et al. Reye's and Reye's-like syndromes. Cell Biochem Funct, 2008; 26 (7): 741-7466.
  • Reye syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/reye-syndrome.
  • Reye syndrome. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/miscellaneous-disorders-in-infants-and-children/reye-syndrome.
  • Reye's syndrome. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: https://liverfoundation.org/liver-diseases/pediatric-liver-diseases/reyes-syndrome.
  • Reye's syndrome. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/reyes-syndrome.
  • What is Reye's syndrome? National Reyes Syndrome website. Available at: https://www.reyessyndrome.org/blank-1.


  • Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.