reye's syndrome:
symptoms, causes and treatment

Thankfully many viruses and infections are a little hard to come by these days, but it still pays to know how to spot them. Reye's syndrome is rare, but it's fast moving and serious, especially for little ones. If baby is recovering from a virus – like the flu, chicken pox, or even a cold – they are more susceptible to catching it. The key is to spot it as early as possible and contact a medical professional.

what are the symptoms of reye's syndrome?

Reye's syndrome usually comes on a few days after a viral infection ends, or if your little one is already poorly. Early symptoms to watch for are throwing up, really fast breathing, fits and seizures. Also look out for general floppiness in their limbs, tiredness and them seeming uninterested in the things around them.

The symptoms can get worse and more varied as the illness goes on, but the main things to watch for are anger and anxiety as your little one starts to experience hallucinations. In serious cases they may even slip into a coma. Remember, these are the worst case scenarios and they're best dealt with by expert medical professionals.

when should i ring the doctor?

With the potential risks in mind, you should ring the doctor as soon as you notice the first symptoms. This means that, if your little one is being sick and behaving oddly after a virus, phone your GP right away for an emergency appointment. Even if you're unsure, it's best to follow your parental instinct and get them checked out, just in case.

If they lose consciousness or have a fit, waste absolutely no time – either phone 999 for an ambulance or bundle them into the car and rush them to A&E. It can affect anyone under the age of 20, so this goes for teenagers too.

what causes reye's syndrome?

Nobody really knows what causes it, only that it tends to come on during or after a viral illness. Some think it might be linked to the use of aspirin, as this is often used to treat the symptoms of viral illnesses. 

However, if you haven't given your little one aspirin, it doesn't mean you can rule out Reye's syndrome. You should still take them to the doctor as these symptoms can be linked to other serious illnesses like meningitis or encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

can i cure it at home?

The short answer is no. After being diagnosed, your little darling will need to spend some time in an intensive care unit (ICU). There's no cure as such, but in the ICU doctors can keep an eye on your baby and treat their symptoms. 

They'll use medication to reduce the swelling that could cause brain damage, preventing further seizures. They'll also work to reduce the amount of ammonia in their body (caused by the illness) and use fluids to balance out the levels of salts and nutrients in the bloodstream.

what are the long-term side effects?

If you and your doctors manage to catch it early, your little one has a good chance of making a full recovery. Unfortunately, the brain swelling caused by Reye's syndrome can leave permanent damage.


These can be mild issues like having a poor memory or a short attention span, but more serious effects could come in the form of difficulty swallowing or having trouble tackling day-to-day tasks. If there ever are long-lasting issues, you will always have the support and guidance of medical professionals on hand.