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Reye's Syndrome Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms usually occur after a viral illness, and are divided into five stages:

Stage 1:

  • Frequent or persistent vomiting
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Laboratory evidence of liver dysfunction

Stage 2:

  • Personality changes, such as irritability and aggression
  • Confusion
  • Disordered speech
  • Hallucinations
  • Deep lethargy
  • Hyperventilation

Stages 3 to 5:

  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Inability to breathe without help

Brain swelling and other problems in Reye's syndrome progress very quickly. They may result in permanent neurologic damage or death. Call a doctor immediately if you think your child has Reye's syndrome.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:

  • Liver function tests—these include:
    • SGOT (AST)
    • SGPT (ALT)
    • LDH
    • Ammonia
    • Prothrombin time
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)—insertion of a needle between the lumbar vertebrae in the back to remove spinal fluid for testing
  • Liver biopsy —removal of a sample of liver tissue for testing

Spinal Tap–Lumbar Puncture Method

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Note that certain inherited metabolic disorders can present with signs and symptoms that mimic Reye’s syndrome. Some have specific treatments, and all may recurr—sometimes fatally—unless diagnosed appropriately. Tests for these disorders (such as ornithine transcarbamylase syndrome) should be done in all children with Reye’s syndrome.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2023 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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