Syndrome: Why Aspirin and Children Don't Mix
(OTC) pain relievers can be very effective for headaches in adults.
Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin are easily available and generally safe
in small doses. Most of these are safe for children, as well. However, aspirin
is an important exception. Aspirin is associated with a risk of Reye's syndrome
in children. Therefore, you should not give aspirin to a child or teen unless specifically
directed by a doctor.
Other OTC medications may also
contain the salicylates found in aspirin. For example, they are also found in:
containing oil of wintergreen
These products should not be given
to children who may have, or have had, a viral infection. They should also be
avoided for several weeks after your child has received the chickenpox vaccine.
Is Reye’s Syndrome?
syndrome is a rare disorder that causes brain and liver damage. Although it can
happen at any age, it is most often seen in children.
syndrome usually occurs in children who have had a recent viral infection, such
as chickenpox or the flu. Taking aspirin to treat such an infection greatly
increases the risk of Reye’s.
chickenpox and the flu can cause headaches. That is why it is important to not
use aspirin to treat a child's headache. Your child may have an undetected
viral infection and be at risk of developing Reye’s syndrome.
Are the Symptoms of Reye’s Syndrome?
of Reye's syndrome come on quickly. They generally appear over the course of
first symptom of Reye’s is usually vomiting. This is followed by irritability
or aggressiveness. After that, children may become confused and lethargic. They
may have seizures or fall into a coma.
is no cure for Reye’s syndrome. However, symptoms can sometimes be
managed. For example, steroids help
reduce swelling in the brain.
syndrome has become less common. This is because doctors and parents no longer
routinely give aspirin to children.
your child has a headache, it’s usually best to stick to acetaminophen (Tylenol)
for treatment. However, make certain to use only the recommended amount. Too
much Tylenol can damage the liver.
a child’s pain or fever is not diminished by Tylenol, see a doctor.
What Is the
Long-Term Outcome of Reye’s Syndrome?
Reye’s syndrome is rarely fatal.
However, it can cause varying degrees of permanent brain damage. Take your
child to the emergency room immediately, if you see signs of: