Reye’s Syndrome – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

Reye’s Syndrome is a disease which affects all organs of the body, but most lethally the liver and the brain. RS is defined as a two-phase illness because it generally occurs in conjunction with a previous viral infection, such as the flu or chicken pox. Children with Reye’s syndrome get sick very suddenly. It predominantly affects children between 4 and 16 years of age, and occurs more frequently when viral diseases are epidemic, such as during the winter months or following an outbreak of chickenpox or influenza B. The disorder commonly occurs during recovery from a viral infection, although it can also develop 3 to 5 days after the onset of the viral illness. The use of ASA (Acetylsalicylic Acid) has been strongly linked with the development of RS. Symptoms usually develop 1-14 days after a viral infection. In Reye’s syndrome, the level of ammonia and acidity in the blood typically rises while the level of blood sugar drops. At the same time, the liver may swell and develop fat deposits. It affects mostly children and teenagers and appears soon after flu-like infection or chicken pox.

Reye’s syndrome is a rare disorder. The symptoms of RS in infants do not follow a typical pattern; for example, vomiting does not always occur. The cause of RS remains a mystery. The use of salicylates like aspirin during viral disease appears to be statistically linked to the incidence of Reye syndrome, even though there is no conclusive proof. A person’s life depends upon early diagnosis. Statistics indicate an excellent chance of recovery when Reye’s Syndrome is diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages. Reye’s Syndrome is often misdiagnosed as encephalitis, meningitis, diabetes, drug overdose, poisoning, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or psychiatric illness. Better tests can diagnose metabolic conditions formerly thought to be Reye’s syndrome. Because of it’s rarity, it is often misdiagnosed as encephalitis, meningitis, diabetes, or poisoning, and the true incidence may be higher than the number of reported cases indicates. Some of the clinical and laboratory features of the syndrome can mimic those disorders found in metabolic disorders, making it difficult to establish an exact diagnosis.

Causes of Reye’s syndrome

The common causes and risk factor’s of Reye’s syndrome include the following:

The exect cause of Reye’s syndrome is unknown.

Influenza (the Flu).

Use of aspirin and other salicylates during a viral illness.

Toxins – Insecticides, herbicides, aflatoxins.

Upper respiratory infection.

Drugs such as- Salicylates, paracetamol, outdated tetracycline

It can also develop after an ordinary upper respiratory infection such as a cold.

Symptoms of Reye’s syndrome

Some sign and symptoms related to Reye’s syndrome are as follows:





Loss of consciousness.

Combative behavior.

Recent upper respiratory infection or chickenpox.

Unusual sleepiness or lethargy.

Disoriented behavior.

Treatment of Reye’s syndrome

Here is list of the methods for treating Reye’s syndrome:

Intravenous fluids: These may include glucose to increase low blood sugar; electrolyte solutions containing sodium, potassium and chloride to correct blood chemistry values; and basic solutions to treat acidity.

Mechanical ventilation (a breathing machine or respirator) may be necessary if breathing becomes too sluggish.

Steroids are given to reduce swelling in the brain.

Diuretics: A diuretic, such as mannitol, can increase fluid loss through urination and help reduce brain swelling.

Some evidence suggests that treatment in the end stages of Reyes Syndrome with hypertonic IV glucose solutions may prevent progression of the syndrome.

When this illness was more common, high-technology treatments such as charcoal hemoperfusion (to filter out blood toxins) were used with some success.