Reye’s syndrome

A rare disorder in which brain and liver damage follow a viral infection. Children over 15 are rarely affected. The cause is unknown, but aspirin seems to be a predisposing factor to developing the condition and is therefore not recommended for children. The disorder starts as the child recovers from the infection. Symptoms include uncontrollable vomiting, lethargy, memory loss, and disorientation. Swelling of the brain may cause seizures, disturbances in heart rhythm, coma, and cessation of breathing. Brain swelling may be controlled by corticosteroid drugs and by intravenous infusions of mannitol. Dialysis or blood transfusions may be needed. If breathing stops, a ventilator is used. The death rate is around 10 per cent, and higher for those who have seizures, lapse into deep coma, and stop breathing. Permanent brain damage may occur.


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