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Reye Syndrome in Children: Care Instructions


Reye syndrome is a rare, serious illness. Children with Reye syndrome have vomiting, confusion, brain swelling, and seizures. They can get very sick very fast.

Children who have an illness, such as influenza (flu) or chickenpox, are most likely to get Reye syndrome. This is especially true if a child who is sick or getting better from an illness takes aspirin or a medicine that has aspirin in it. Aspirin is found in some over-the-counter medicines, such as Alka-Seltzer and Pepto-Bismol. Aspirin is also called acetyl salicylate, acetylsalicylic acid, salicylic acid, or subsalicylate. It is important to read all labels.

You can reduce your child's chance of getting Reye syndrome. To lower the risk, never give your child aspirin. Some health problems might be treated with aspirin medicine. This includes problems such as Kawasaki disease. If this is true for your child, talk to your doctor about your child's treatment options. If the doctor prescribes aspirin, talk to them about how to give it safely.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
  • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Give your child medicines exactly as prescribed. Call the doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with the medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your child's doctor prescribes.
  • Offer your child plenty of fluids. If your child has kidney, heart, or liver disease and has to limit fluids, talk with the doctor before you increase the amount of fluids.
  • Give your child healthy foods. Make sure they get plenty of rest. This helps their body heal.
  • Keep the lights dim if your child's eyes are sensitive to light.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has just had chickenpox or the flu and has symptoms of Reye syndrome. These symptoms can include:
    • Vomiting.
    • No energy.
    • Strange behaviour, such as staring, being cranky, or slurring.
    • Unusual sleepiness.
    • Confusion.
    • Fast, deep breathing.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.