Saturday, September 22, 2012

Reye's Syndrome Awareness Month

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By Nurse Diane

While I was working in the hospital, many patients were taking children's aspirin for heart conditions.  Every time I dispensed them I would think about the long standing rule of not giving aspirin to babies.  Being a new parent has many challenging responsibilities.  One of the main responsibilities is knowing what is safe and not safe for your child. Things such as not laying your baby on his stomach while sleeping, do not give honey for the first year of life, and no aspirin.  The reason for not giving aspirin to babies is it could cause Reyes Syndrome.  Reyes is a potentially fatal disease that causes damage to many body organs, especially the liver and brain, and it can also cause hypoglycemia which is low blood sugar.

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Reye's syndrome has been associated with taking aspirin during a viral infection.  However, it can also occur without taking aspirin.  It can occur at any age, but it is most common in younger children.  It can cause brain swelling and lead to brain injury or death. Scientists do know that Reye's Syndrome is not contagious and the cause is unknown. According to Reye's, Reye's Syndrome is often misdiagnosed as encephalitis, meningitis, diabetes, drug overdose, poisoning, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or psychiatric illness.

Signs and symptoms of Reye's include:
  • Unexpected vomiting following any viral illness such as a flu-like upper respiratory infection or chicken pox (usually no diarrhea)
  • Elevated SGOT-SGPT (SAT-ACT) [usually 200 or more units] in the absence of jaundice

Signs of disturbed brain function characterized by:
  • Lethargy
  • Staring
  • Stupor
  • Agitated delirium
  • Screaming
  • Drug reaction-like behavior
  • Extensor spasms
  • Decerebrate rigidity
  • Aspirin poisoning-like symptoms
  • Coma

Reye's could also be confused with these diagnoses:
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Diabetes
  • Drug Overdose
  • Sudden Infant Death
  • Toxic Ingestion
  • Head Trauma
  • Renal or Hepatic Failure
  • Poisoning

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Early diagnosis is extremely important in preventing complications and death.  This month is Reye's Syndrome Awareness Month.

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