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Keep Out of Reach of Children: Reye’s…

Keep Out of Reach of Children: Reye’s Syndrome, Aspirin, and the…

by Mark A. Largent

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Honestly, this book was a bit of a let down. Although the story of this devastating childhood illness was interesting, I felt as though the author got lost trying to capture our poor understanding of the causes. I appreciated that the author tried to convey the different theories about the illness. I liked that the didn’t try to pretend there was a clear cut answer. However, at the end, I wish there had been a clear message to the book and there just wasn’t. The story wasn’t told in a nice linear fashion. Transitions between topics could be choppy. And at the end, I just felt confused. ( )
  DoingDewey | Aug 11, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was born in 1985 and was never given aspirin as a kid because of the story that it can cause Reye's Syndrome. Reading this book I was a bit stunned to discover they never found any sure proof that aspirin was behind this peculiar condition, and there is some evidence that it was not. Case in point: the author himself is a Reye's survivor and he was not exposed to aspirin.

I liked the book and I think anyone with an interest in public health and/or medicine in general would like it, but it did kind of peter out at the end. Which is understandable, given that (spoiler alert) Reye's Syndrome itself kind of quietly disappeared before anyone could even find out for sure what it was, whether it was a toxin, some kind of virus, who knows. ( )
  meggyweg | Jun 11, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
One of my favorite reads of 2015 so far. This book walks the line between academic and popular nonfiction perfectly. The author writes at a high level, clearly for an intelligent and educated audience, but never gets lost in undefined jargon or a Gordian knot of technical details.

I was one of the children told never to take aspirin because it caused Reye's Syndrome; my mother, an RN who went to nursing school in the early 1980s, had heard it was toxic for children. In fact, when I was 23, I called my mom to ask her if I was old enough to take aspirin safely yet!

Yet it turns out that aspirin and Reye's syndrome are only tenuously linked.

I really liked the way this book was laid out. It begins with the dramatic real-life story that draws the reader in to care about the human cost. The syndrome is then traced from its first identification in the literature in the 1950s to its disappearance in the 1980s. Multiple possible causes were examined by doctors and epidemiologists at the time, including pesticides before aspirin. (To me, the most interesting explanation for the syndrome, then-unidentified metabolic disorders, which comes at the end, is given less attention than the others. However, this is partially because there has never been true research into this, so who knows if that is possible.)

As a social scientist, I thought the conclusion section discussing the politicization of science was underwhelming. That shouldn't discourage the reader interested in medical mysteries, however.

This is a topic I never knew I was so intrigued to discover. Very highly recommended for those interested in medicine and epidemiology. ( )
1 vote sparemethecensor | Mar 14, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was an interesting and well written examination of the history of Reye's syndrome, its purported link with aspirin, and the role that US politicians and the media played in disseminating informatio, much of it misleading, to the general public. The cause(s) of Reye's syndrome remain unknown, and the author, who survived a severe case of it as a child, did an excellent job in explaining and critiquing the various theories that were proposed. ( )
  kidzdoc | Feb 23, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's pretty straightforward- tracing the history and controversy surrounding Reye's syndrome. It was interesting, but not exciting. I could only take it in small doses- more scholarly than entertaining. Having grown up with warning labels, I never really thought much about it, and never realized that Reye's was possibly linked to aspirin, and not directly causal... and really made me wonder about some of the decisions made by our government, and where you should draw the line between safe and dangerous
  Radella | Feb 4, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 193413788X, Paperback)

“A fascinating history of a public health crisis. Compellingly written and insightful, Keep Out of Reach of Children traces the discovery of Reye’s syndrome, research into its causes, industry’s efforts to avoid warning labels on one suspected cause, aspirin, and the feared disease’s sudden disappearance. Largent’s empathy is with the myriad children and parents harmed by the disease, while he challenges the triumphalist view that labeling solved the crisis.” —ERIK M. CONWAY, co-author of Merchants of Doubt

Reye’s syndrome, identified in 1963, was a debilitating, rare condition that typically afflicted healthy children just emerging from the flu or other minor illnesses. It began with vomiting, followed by confusion, coma, and in 50 percent of all cases, death. Survivors were often left with permanent liver or brain damage. Desperate, terrorized parents and doctors pursued dramatic, often ineffectual treatments. For over fifteen years, many inconclusive theories were posited as to its causes. The Centers for Disease Control dispatched its Epidemic Intelligence Service to investigate, culminating in a study that suggested a link to aspirin. Congress held hearings at which parents, researchers, and pharmaceutical executives testified. The result was a warning to parents and doctors to avoid pediatric use of aspirin, leading to the widespread substitution of alternative fever and pain reducers. But before a true cause was definitively established, Reye’s syndrome simply vanished.

A harrowing medical mystery, Keep Out of Reach of Children is the first and only book to chart the history of Reye’s syndrome and reveal the confluence of scientific and social forces that determined the public health policy response, for better or for ill.

Mark A. Largent, a survivor of Reye’s syndrome, is the author of Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America and Breeding Contempt: The History of Coerced Sterilization in the United States. He is a historian of science, Associate Professor in James Madison College at Michigan State University, and Associate Dean in Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University. He lives in Lansing, Michigan.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:21 -0400)

"A modern medical mystery about an illness that ravaged healthy children, changed policy, and vanished before a cause was found"--Provided by publisher.

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