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Reye syndrome

Reye syndrome is rare disorder that affects all organs of the body but is most harmful to the brain and the liver—causing an acute increase of pressure within the brain and, often, massive accumulations of fat in the liver and other organs.

Reye syndrome is defined as a two-phase illness because it generally occurs during recovery from a viral infection, such as the flu or chicken pox. It also can develop 3 to 5 days after the onset of the viral illness.

Reye syndrome is primarily a children's disease, although it can occur at any age. It is often misdiagnosed. Symptoms may include:

  • Persistent or recurrent vomiting
  • Listlessness
  • Personality changes such as irritability or combativeness
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Delirium
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness

The cause of Reye syndrome is unknown. Studies have shown a link between aspirin (salicylate) and the onset of Reye syndrome. Because of this association, healthcare professionals do not recommend the use of aspirin for children.

There is no cure for Reye syndrome. Treatment focuses on preventing brain damage. Recovery is directly related to the severity of the swelling of the brain. Some individuals recover completely, while others may sustain varying degrees of brain damage.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with Reye syndrome?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about Reye syndrome and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with Reye syndrome at

Where can I find more information about Reye syndrome?

Information may be available from the following resources:

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Phone: 301-827-4573 or 888-463-6332


Content source: Accessed June 29, 2023.

The information in this document is for general educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for personalized professional advice. Although the information was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, MedLink, its representatives, and the providers of the information do not guarantee its accuracy and disclaim responsibility for adverse consequences resulting from its use. For further information, consult a physician and the organization referred to herein.

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