Reye's syndrome

Preventing Reye's syndrome

You should not give aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin to children who are under 16 years old, unless a doctor specifically advises you to do so.

Other names for aspirin include:

  • acetylsalicylic acid
  • acetylsalicylate
  • salicylic acid
  • salicylate
  • salicylate salts – found in Bonjela (a treatment for mouth ulcers)

Alternatives to aspirin

If your child or teenager has flu (influenza) or other viral infections, painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can reduce their fever and relieve pain. However, ibuprofen is not recommended for those with a history of:

  • asthma
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease

Check with your GP or pharmacist if you are unsure. You can also see the Health A-Z topics about Paracetamol and Ibuprofen for more information.

Conditions that need aspirin

Some children under 16 years old have specific conditions which need to be treated with medication that contains aspirin. For example:

  • Kawasaki disease – a condition that causes inflammation of the arteries
  • juvenile arthritis – a rare form of arthritis that affects children

If your child has one of these conditions, your GP may decide that the benefit of taking medication that contains aspirin outweighs the risk. If your GP advises that your child should take aspirin, they may also recommend the chickenpox and flu (influenza) vaccines to reduce your child's risk of developing Reye’s syndrome.

See the Health A-Z topic about the flu vaccination for more information.

Last updated: 04 June 2013