Complications & Prevention
Most children and teenagers who have Reye's syndrome survive, although varying degrees of permanent brain damage are possible. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, Reye's syndrome can be fatal within a few days.
Even though Laura survived, she describes her life’s journey as being to “hell and back,” as she was made fun of at school all the time, has learning difficulties, has no sense of direction, had and continues to have problems establishing relationships, and suffers from manic depression, agoraphobia and other disorders, including being bipolar.
“My life has been a disaster,” Laura said.
But earlier this year, Laura’s life started to look up after reaching a very low point in her life. She met a young woman who worked in the cultural arts department for the Association for persons with Intellectual Disabilities (AID).
“Meagan has truly been an angel to me,” Laura said. “She understands me. People don’t take time to get to know me. She took time.”
Holding up a bottle of children’s aspirin, Laura pleads, “Don’t use this on children or teenagers. It can change your life drastically like it did to me.”
Even though aspirin is approved for children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin, according to the CDC. This includes plain aspirin and medications that contain aspirin. In 1982, the FDA required that warning labels be used for all aspirin products. Many medical professionals recommend that you do not give aspirin to anyone under age 20 unless it is prescribed by a doctor.
In addition, children with fatty acid oxidation disorders should not take aspirin or aspirin-containing products. Some hospitals conduct newborn screenings for fatty acid oxidation disorders to determine which children are at greater risk of developing Reye's syndrome.
Before giving a child medication, always read the label, including over-the-counter products and alternative or herbal remedies. Aspirin can show up in the most unexpected places, such as Alka-Seltzer, Kaopectate, and Pepto-Bismol. Aspirin can also go by other names including acetylsalicylic acid, acetylsalicylate, salicylic acid, and salicylate.
When a child has the flu, chickenpox or another viral illness, consider using alternative medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium, to reduce high fever or relieve pain.
There's one caveat to the aspirin rule, however. Children and teenagers who have certain chronic diseases, may need long-term treatment with drugs that contain aspirin. For those individuals it is vital to make sure their vaccines are current, including two doses of the chickenpox vaccine and a yearly flu vaccine. Avoiding these two viral illnesses can help prevent Reye's syndrome. If your child is taking aspirin and gets chickenpox or the flu, call your doctor immediately.