Reye Syndrome

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

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It is possible that the main title of the report Reye Syndrome is not the name you expected.

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Reye syndrome is a rare disorder of childhood and adolescence. It primarily affects individuals under 18 years of age, particularly children from approximately age four to 12 years. In rare cases, infants or young adults may be affected. The disorder's cause is unknown. However, there appears to be an association between the onset of Reye syndrome and the use of aspirin-containing medications (salicylates) in children or adolescents with certain viral illnesses, particularly upper respiratory tract infections (e.g., influenza B) or, in some cases, chickenpox (varicella).

Although any organ system may be involved, Reye syndrome is primarily characterized by distinctive, fatty changes of the liver and sudden (acute) swelling of the brain (cerebral edema). Associated symptoms and findings may include the sudden onset of severe, persistent vomiting; elevated levels of certain liver enzymes in the blood (hepatic transaminases); unusually high amounts of ammonia in the blood (hyperammonemia); disturbances of consciousness; sudden episodes of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain (seizures); and/or other abnormalities, leading to potentially life-threatening complications in some cases. Due to the potential association between the use of aspirin-containing agents and the development of Reye syndrome, it is advised that such medications be avoided for individuals under age 18 years who are affected by viral infections such as influenza or chickenpox.

Supporting Organizations

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1600 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
Tel: (404)639-3534
Tel: (800)232-4636

Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center

PO Box 8126
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8126
Tel: (301)251-4925
Fax: (301)251-4911
Tel: (888)205-2311

NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
Tel: (301)496-5751
Fax: (301)402-2186
Tel: (800)352-9424

National Reye's Syndrome Foundation, Inc.

426 N. Lewis Street
P.O. Box 829
Bryan, OH 43506-0829
Tel: (419)636-2679
Fax: (419)636-9897
Tel: (800)233-7393

For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). For a full-text version of this report, go to and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only.

It is possible that the title of this topic is not the name you selected. Please check the Synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and Disorder Subdivision(s) covered by this report.

This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

Last Updated:  6/25/2015
Copyright  2014 National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.