Don’t Confuse Viral Illness With Reye’s Syndrome
By Jeanine Kendle
This is information parents and grandparents need to be aware of, or anyone who might provide child care.
Reye’s syndrome is a disease that swiftly attacks every organ in the body, but especially the liver and the brain. What you need to be aware of is even though the cause is unknown, there is an association between a previous viral infection (influenza, cold, or chicken pox) and salicylates (aspirin like products). Reye’s syndrome is not contagious. Unfortunately, it is often misdiagnosed as encephalitis, meningitis, diabetes, drug overdose, poisoning, sudden infant death syndrome or psychiatric illness.
Reye’s tends to correlate with the months associated with the highest number of cases of viral illness, though cases are reported every month of the year.
Reye’s syndrome typically follows a pattern such as the person is recovering from a viral illness, abnormal accumulations of fat begin to develop in the liver and other body organs and a severe increase in pressure in the brain. If not diagnosed early and properly, death can occur in a few days.
There are two stages of Reye’s syndrome:
1. Persistent or continuous vomiting or diarrhea in infants, signs of brain dysfunction (abnormal performance), listlessness, loss of pep and energy, and drowsiness.
2. Personality changes, irritability, aggressive behavior, disorientation, confusion, irrational behavior, combative, delirium, convulsions and coma.
Not all of the symptoms have to occur or displayed in the above order. Fever usually is not a symptom.
The National Reye’s Syndrome Foundation, FDA, CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics warns anyone 19 years of age or younger should not consume or apply “aspirin-like” products. Unfortunately, these products are everywhere on store shelves, with small type warnings, if at all.
“Aspirin-like,” or more appropriately, salicylic acid containing products are found in pain relievers, stomach or gastrointestinal aids, shampoos, acne preparations, wart removers, etc.
Consumers are conditioned to read labels, but in particular, since this is a life-threatening disease for anyone, but most especially teens and younger children, the following names should be scanned for and avoided in conjunction with a viral illness: Acetyl Salicylic Acid, Acetylsalicylate, Acetylsalicylic Acid, Aluminum Acetyl Salicylate, Ammonium Salicylate, Amyl Salicylate, Arthropan, Aspirin, Benzyl Salicylate, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Calcium Acetyl Salicylate, Choline Salicylate, Ethyl Salicylate, Lithium Salicylate, Methyl Salicylate, Methylene Disalicylic Acid, Octisalate, Octyl Salicylate, Phenyl Salicylate, Procaine Salicylate, Sal Ethyl Carbonate, Salicylamide, Salicylanilide, Salicylsalicylic Acid, Santalyl Salicylate, Sodium Salicylate, Stoncylate, Strontium Salicylate, Sulfosalicylic Acid, Tridecyl Salicylate and Trolamine Salicylate.
The names are confusing, but if you look closely there is some commonality.
Unfortunately, several medications are targeted to children or unsuspecting parents with children such as Kaopectate New and Improved Children Cherry Flavor (at one time Kaopectate contained Kaolin and Pectin and not, as now, bismuth subsalicylate), Pepto- Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate), Pamprin, Clearasil, Stri-Dex, Clearskin, Skin-So-Soft, Biore, Fostex, Sebucare, Aspercreme, Icy Hot, Flexal, Sportscreme, several L’Oreal products, several Mary Kay products, several Neutrogena products, etc.
This certainly is not a complete list, but as you can see, these products are, if not directly marketed to, would certainly appeal to children or teens.
Consult your pharmacist before making an over-the-counter selection to avoid hidden sources of salicylates.
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