Now that the flu season is beginning again, it is a good time to remind families to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) rather than aspirin. Why?
In 1963, the first case of Reye’s syndrome was described and presented as encephalopathy and liver disease. This particular disease was noted to occur within a few days after a previous viral illness, most notably chicken pox or the flu. The symptoms included vomiting, mental confusion, and even coma. There was also a strong association with the use of aspirin during the viral illness.
The active ingredient in aspirin is salicylate, and it can also be found in other products such as Pepto-Bismol.
Since the first case, subsequent studies have demonstrated a link between Reye Syndrome and use of salicylate-containing medications. In order to decrease the occurrence, parents were warned not to give aspirin to children and teens with the flu or chicken pox; and large warning signs were posted in most pharmacies for several years in the mid-1980s.
As we enter the flu season in the next several months, please remember to use acetaminophen as a fever reducer for infants 2 months and older, or ibuprofen for infants 6 months and older. More importantly, we recommend the flu vaccine for almost everyone in the household, especially for infants and toddlers less than 2 years of age, and greater than 6 months of age.