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What to do if someone has a stroke?

Call 999 immediately

If you suspect that you or someone else has had a stroke it is vital that they receive medical attention as quickly as possible. The NHS tells us that “even if the symptoms disappear while you’re waiting for the ambulance, it’s still important to go to hospital for an assessment.”

This is because you may have had a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), or what is sometimes referred to as a ‘mini-stroke’, but it is still vital you receive medical attention to discover what caused it and whether another stroke may be imminent.

Perform the F.A.S.T test

Everyone is different so there are no guarantees that the symptoms will be the same, however the most common symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST:

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
  • Arms – the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
  • Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

The NHS website goes on to say “Less common symptoms include complete paralysis of one side of the body, sudden loss or blurring of vision, dizziness, confusion, difficulty understanding what others are saying, problems with balance and co-ordination, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), a sudden and very severe headache resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before, loss of consciousness.

It’s important for everyone to be aware of these signs and symptoms, particularly if you live with or care for a person who is in a high-risk group, such as someone who is elderly or has diabetes or high blood pressure.”

Record the time you first see symptoms

Timing is crucial when someone has had a stroke, as the longer it takes to receive medical attention, the more of the brain will be affected. The medical staff will want to know when you first noticed symptoms of the stroke, which is why it’s crucial to keep that information to hand when you call 999.

There are two main causes of stroke – an Ischaemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot that is formed when arteries become narrowed or blocked due to fatty deposits, or a Haemorrhagic stroke, which is caused when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds into and around the brain. A stroke can be made more likely because of lifestyle choices, such as being overweight, smoking, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption and stress; these risk factors can also contribute to high blood pressure, which is the key cause of haemorrhagic stroke.

Perform CPR only if necessary

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) should never be performed unless you are absolutely sure that the person isn’t breathing and they’re unconscious. If an adult is unconscious but breathing, place them in the recovery position until help arrives, unless they have injuries that prevents them being moved.

All Helping Hands carers have an awareness session on CPR as part of their training and are advised what procedure to follow in the event of an emergency. If you are looking for care at home for yourself or a loved one and would like to learn more about our fully managed stroke care, and wholly regulated service, please call us today or contact us via our website.

Page reviewed by Kathryn Mahon, Regional Clinical Lead on November 29, 2021