Reyes Foundation Reminds Of Aspirin, Reye's Syndrome Link

Armen Hareyan's picture
Aspirin linked to Reye's Syndreom

The National Reye's Syndrome Foundation wants to remind parents, teachers, and medical professionals about keeping in mind that research has shown an association between the development of Reye's Syndrome and the use of aspirin (a salicylate compound) for treating the symptoms of influenza-like illnesses, (Flu) chicken pox, colds, etc.

It is possible to develop Reye's Syndrome without taking aspirin. However, the chances of developing Reye's Syndrome can be reduced by not giving aspirin to individuals for relief of discomfort or fever without first consulting a physician for each specific use, especially in children. Anti-nausea medications may also contain salicylates, and may mask the symptoms of Reye's Syndrome.

Teenagers and adults are especially at risk of developing Reye's Syndrome due to self-medication. Too often, teenagers are ingesting aspirin-type products without parental knowledge. Teenagers should be made aware of the different forms of pain relievers on the market and make certain they check with a parent before using any medications.

What is Reye's Syndrome?
Reye's Syndrome is a disease which affects all organs of the body, but most lethally the liver and brain. Reye's Syndrome is a two-phase illness because it is almost always associated with a previous viral infection, such as influenza, cold, or chicken pox. Scientists do know that Reye's Syndrome is not contagious and the cause is unknown. Reye's Syndrome is often misdiagnosed as encephalitis, meningitis, diabetes, drug overdose, poisoning, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or psychiatric illness.


Reye's Syndrome tends to appear with greatest frequency during January, February, and March when influenza is most common. Cases are reported in every month of the year. An epidemic of flu or chicken pox is commonly followed by an increase in number of cases of Reye's Syndrome.

When Reye's Syndrome develops, it typically occurs when a person is beginning to recover from a viral illness. Abnormal accumulations of fat begin to develop in the liver and other organs of the body, along with a severe increase of pressure in the brain. Unless diagnosed and treated successfully, death is common, often within a few days. A person's life depends upon early diagnosis. Statistics indicate an excellent chance of recovery when Reye's Syndrome is diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages. The later the diagnosis and treatment, the more severely reduced are chances for successful recovery and survival.

Stages of Reye's Syndrome:
Stage 1
Persistent or continuous Vomiting
Signs of Brain Dysfunction; Listlessness
Loss of Pep and Energy
Stage 2
Personality Changes; Irritability, Aggressive Behavior
Disorientation; Confusion, Irrational Behavior, Combative
Delirium, convulsions, coma

Reye's Syndrome should be suspected in a person if this pattern or symptoms appear during, or most commonly, after a viral illness. Not all symptoms have to occur, nor do they have to be displayed in this order. Fever is not usually present. Many diseases have symptoms in common. Physicians and medical staff in emergency rooms who have not had experience in treating Reye's Syndrome may misdiagnose the disease. The symptoms of Reye's Syndrome in infants do not follow a typical pattern. For example, vomiting may be replaced with diarrhea, and they may display irregular breathing.

Medicines can mask symptoms. Do not give children aspirin or anti-nausea medications. Call your doctor immediately if you suspect Reye's Syndrome. Reye's Syndrome is always a medical emergency. Time is important and early diagnosis is vital. Abnormal liver tests: SGOT and SGPT strongly suggest a diagnosis of Reye's Syndrome.

For more information about Reye's Syndrome, visit the National Reye's Syndrome Foundation website at



The Bark Of A Willow Tree Almost on a daily basis, one may read about a new medication being developed or approved for the benefit of patients with a particular medical condition or disease state that they exist at the time. At times, these announcements may praise the innovation and novelty of such new drugs that are available to all in need of it, and rightfully so, in many situations. But it’s possible the one particular drug is not new and really may be a super drug. In fact, it’s one of the oldest medications available, and that would be aspirin- the first non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) initially for those patients experiencing pain. Noted as ASA by doctors typically, aspirin effects have been noted for thousands of years, as the active ingredient comes from the bark of a White Willow tree, and long ago, patients with pain or a fever would chew on this bark for relief. Yet due to the harshness of the natural chemical of this bark, Bayer decided to synthesize it to make it more tolerable for the user. Fast forward to over a hundred years ago and Bayer pharmaceuticals (pronounced ‘Beier’), which is the same company that brought us heroin (named so due to its perceived ‘heroic’ qualities as a believed non-addictive substitute for morphine addicts) and mustard gas, as well as methadone. The company originated in Germany, but presently has its U.S. headquarters in New York. Felix Hoffman, seeking to develop an agent for his father’s rheumatism, was involved in the development of what is known now as aspirin. And it was a difficult task to develop this drug, as it was toxic to the stomach due to the nature of the active ingredient again obtained from the bark of the white willow tree. Dr. Hoffman and others at Bayer developed a drug that proved to be tolerable to patients while keeping the active ingredient in tact through a method of delivery developed by Dr. Hoffman’s team at Bayer. After launching the medication, aspirin was priced at about 50 cents an ounce, as at the time it was only available in power form. Soon before 1920, aspirin developed the tablet form of the drug and was then available by prescription. Regardless, aspirin was responsible for one third of sales for Bayer during this time, due to its popularity due to the effects of this medication in need of relief. While all drugs have side effects, aspirin is one of very few drugs that offers suitable efficacy with perhaps mild side effects associated with the drug, comparatively speaking. Aspirin has been found to be beneficial for a wide variety of disease states. In fact, some of aspirin’s additional uses have been only recently discovered. This may be why the New York Times called aspirin a wonder drug in the 1960s, according to others. In the 1970s, the mechanism of aspirin was isolated, which is the blockage of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are inside the human body and are a contributor for physiological inflammation. Aspirin has been associated with decreased risk of asthma and prostate cancer in the elderly. Also, aspirin has been linked with lowering the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer as well. Yet these conclusions are based on limited research with aspirin. Aspirin is a blood thinner, and has been associated with decreasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes in certain patient populations, as the drug prevents clots. However, aspirin has not been shown to prevent heart attacks in diabetic patients. The cardiovascular benefits of aspirin were first suggested in the 1940s, and the FDA suggested that it be the drug of choice for those who experienced a heart attack over a decade ago. Aspirin intake is also beneficial for those after coronary bypass procedure. In addition, aspirin has been shown to reduced blood pressure with those who have mild hypertension, if aspirin is taken at night with such patients. A topical formulation of aspirin was developed recently for those experiencing Herpes pain. The drug has been proven beneficial for those experiencing migraine pains. Aspirin at low doses is taken by many as a preventive drug to decrease cardiovascular incidents that may occur. Aspirin has been the best selling painkiller absent of the past addictive qualities of opiate meds since the 1950s. It is also the most studied drug- with over 3000 scientific papers published worldwide. Also, over 15 billion tablets of aspirin are sold annually, which amounts to about 80 million aspirin tablets consumed daily by others. This amounts to over 16,000 tons of aspirin consumed during this time, or about 70,000 metric tons of aspirin a year. Over a decade ago, a study was performed and concluded that twice as many people would choose aspirin over a computer, given the two choices, because of the benefits of the drug. Side effects would include GI bleeding if taken in large amounts, along with an association of Reye’s syndrome in children, yet both are relatively rare. Yet all things considered, clearly the benefits of aspirin outweigh any risks of the drug. Lately, there have been issues with other NSAIDs, such as Cox II inhibitors, without full recollection or knowledge that aspirin is in fact the world’s most widely used drug, and for good reasons. At times, something newer is not always better. “There is no genius without a touch of madness.” --- Vaslav Nijinsky Dan Abshear