What to Do if Someone’s Experiencing a Stroke
May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and we’ve got tips on what you should do in case someone around you is experiencing a stroke.
Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented, and just last January we posted many of the ways you can reduce your chances of a stroke, including quitting smoking, adding exercise to your daily routine and watching out for an abnormal heartbeat.
If you happen to be in the scary situation of witnessing a possible stroke, it‘s crucial to be informed on how to help.
Here‘s what you should do if someone around you is experiencing a stroke:
Use FAST to remember the warning signs and what to do:
- Face: Ask the person to smile and check to see if one side of their face drops.
- Arms: Ask the person to lift both of their arms, and check to see if one drifts down.
- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase back to you and check to see if their speech is slurred.
- Time: If you notice any of these signs, call 911 immediately!
Signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially if it’s only on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one (or both) eyes
- Sudden trouble walking because of dizziness
- Sudden headache with no other known cause
When and if you have to call 911, the operator will want to know what time the symptoms started, so be sure to note that as it’s happening. They will ask specific questions as they walk you through what to do until the ambulance arrives. Strokes are a medical emergency, and every second counts in dealing with them.
“After an acute stroke, time is of the essence,” says Matthew D. Vibbert, MD, assistant professor of neurology and neurological surgery at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “The sooner a person suffering a stroke gets to an emergency room, the more likely doctors will be able to restore blood flow to the affected area, saving brain cells. The more brain cells we save, the better the chances for a good recovery.”
It’s also important not to give food, medicine or water to a potential stroke victim. “Although most strokes are caused by blockage in an artery, some strokes are caused by bleeding from an artery that burst,” says Daniel Labovitz, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein University College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “Giving aspirin to someone with this condition could make it worse.”
Stay positive! “Try to concentrate on the situation and remind yourself that you are doing everything you can to help,” says Danielle Haskins, MD, medical director of the Stroke Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. “Reassure your loved one that you aren’t going anywhere and that help is on the way.”
What to expect at the hospital:
Doctors will diagnose the stroke and then decide the treatment.
- Arrival at the hospital: Patient or loved one will provide a detailed medical history and information about any past medical conditions. Remember, it’s helpful if you know the time that stroke symptoms began.
- Initial tests will rule out any other conditions that have symptoms similar to a stroke.
- Doctors will determine the type of stroke through a CT scan/MRI of the brain.
- The hospital will begin treatment.
- Other assessments that might occur: EKG; blood tests, including complete blood count, blood sugar, blood clotting time, electrolytes, liver and kidney function; MRI to find out the amount of damage to the brain; carotid ultrasound if narrowing of a carotid artery is suspected; MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram).