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Don't ever give your child aspirin unless your child's doctor prescribes it. Aspirin use in children has been linked to a rare but potentially fatal illness known as Reye's syndrome.
The risk is especially high for children who take aspirin when they have a fever or other symptoms of a viral illness, such as flu or chicken pox. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen work just as well as aspirin, so there's no need to take a chance – even a small one – on your child developing a possibly fatal illness.
No one knows what causes Reye's syndrome, but it's not contagious so it's impossible to catch from someone else. To prevent a child from developing the condition, never give aspirin to anyone 19 years old or younger.
Read labels carefully: Many over-the-counter drugs, such as antacids and cold and sinus medicines, contain aspirin. Look for the terms salicylate, acetylsalicylate, acetylsalicylic acid, salicylamide, and phenyl salicylate, which may be used instead of the word aspirin.
Some children – such as those suffering from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or Kawasaki's disease – need to take aspirin as part of their treatment. But in these cases, a doctor prescribes aspirin and monitors the child closely for side effects.