Put down that aspirin!

Round white pills and plastic pill bottleWinter brings a raft of viral infections to homes, schools, daycares, churches and other gathering places. Your Alzein Pediatric Associates medical professionals know that these colds, flus and other illnesses make your family miserable, and that you’d like to use over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve fevers, muscle pain, upset stomaches and more.

While there are, of course, a variety of safe, effective medicines, we here at Alzein remind you to never give your child aspirin or any OTC drugs containing aspirin, unless specifically prescribed by your physician.

The use of aspirin in treating viral illnesses in children under the age of 20 has been strongly linked to the potentially fatal Reye syndrome. Reye syndrome causes swelling in the liver and brain, permanent damaging and disabling your child. Without treatment, Reye syndrome is fatal within days.

Do not give your child any medications that lists as an ingredient:

  • Aspirin
  • Acetyl salicylate
  • Salicylic acid
  • Salicylate
  • Subsalicylate

Read labels carefully, as OTC medicines such as Pepto-Bismal, Kaopectate and Alka-Seltzer and their generic equivalents contain aspirin. 

Rarely, Reye syndrome can develop in children who have a metabolic condition, or who may have been exposed to toxins such as paint thinner, weed killing chemicals and insect killing chemicals.

You’ll notice Reye syndrome developing after your child has started a cold, the flu, or other illnesses, anywhere from a day or two to two weeks. Watch for:

• Diarrhea

• Rapid breathing

In children younger than two

• Frequent and persistent vomiting

• Aggressive, violent or irrational behavior

• Confusion, hallucinations, slurred speech

• Seizures or convulsions

• Fatigue and overall sleepiness

In children over two

Early diagnosis and treatment will save your child’s life. If you suspect your child has Reye Syndrome, or that someone has given your child aspirin or a product containing aspirin to treat a recent illness, call our office or go to the Emergency Room immediately. 

Medical professionals will order diagnostic tools that may include blood and urine tests, a spinal tap, biopsy of the liver or skin, a CT scan or MRI. Your child will remain in the hospital for treatment, receiving fluids and medications to increase urination, decrease swelling and prevent bleeding. Your child may receive machine assisted breathing help if needed.

Prevent Reye syndrome by stressing to all your children’s caregivers that, to a child under 20, aspirin can be deadly. Give only acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). Keep aspirin and aspirin related products well out of the reach of your children.

If you have any questions about Reye syndrome, or about prescription medications containing aspirin that your child may be currently taking, call our office at 708-424-7600. We are always happy to answer your questions, keeping your family in optimal health and safety.