How to respond when someone has a stroke
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2018, stroke was the underlying cause of 5.3% of all deaths in Australia.
Despite these sombre statistic, stroke is actually treatable and preventable with prompt treatment. Possessing knowledge of how to spot the signs of stroke and what actions to take can possibly help save a life and avoid potential complications when it strikes.
What is a stroke?
Stroke occurs when blood supply to parts of our brain is reduced or interrupted. This deprives our brain tissue of the nutrients and oxygen necessary for its survival. Within minutes, cells start to die, impeding our brain functions. To minimise the resultant impact of stroke, prompt treatment is crucial.
There are 2 common forms of stroke — ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic stroke occurs when there is a blood vessel blockage, limiting blood flow to the brain; and hemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is a blood vessel rupture, causing bleeding in the brain.
While some risk factors of stroke such as age and family history are non-modifiable, many are lifestyle factors we can change to lower our risk of getting a stroke. However, when it occurs, it is important for us to identify the signs early and take the necessary and right steps to seek treatment to prevent further complications.
How do I identify the symptoms of stroke?
The type of stroke and the part of the brain affected can manifest different symptoms. An easy way to remember the common symptoms is through the acronym “BE FAST”, which also doubles up as a reminder that speed is key when stroke strikes.
The acronym stands for:
- A person with stroke may feel dizzy,. stumble or experience a loss of coordination
- Those having a stroke may have blurred or blackened vision, face trouble seeing in one of both eyes, or see double
- Stroke may cause facial numbness, often only on one side, resulting in the tell-tale sign of facial drooping.
- If a person is unable to raise one arm or if it drifts downwards, it may indicate a weakness or numbness in one arm, a sign of stroke.
- A person with stroke may appear confused, have difficulty speaking and understanding speech, and tend to slur.
- In stroke treatment, time is crucial. Brain cells die with every passing minute. Call 000 immediately if you observe any of the above symptoms
Other symptoms can include a sudden and severe headache, vomiting and fatigue.
What should you do when someone has a stroke?
It’s a race against time when stroke strikes. Receiving prompt and immediate treatment helps to minimise the extent of brain damage stroke can cause to our loved one.
Call an ambulance immediately
In stroke treatment, time is crucial. Brain cells die with every passing minute. If you notice a person displaying any signs of stroke, call 000 for immediate help instead of transporting the affected individual to the Accident and Emergency department on your own.
Dialling 000 not only ensures the prompt transportation of the person with stroke to the hospital, it also triggers a chain of events. Trained paramedics will be able to identify the symptoms of stroke, administer life-saving treatment en-route to the hospital, and inform the emergency department so that appropriate immediate medical attention is available upon arrival.
Take note of when the symptoms started
Some of the most effective treatments for stroke can potentially reverse or stop symptoms from progressing. However, it has to be administered within 6 hours from the start of the symptoms.
With an awareness of the time the symptoms started, the most appropriate and effective treatment can be determined.
Perform CPR if necessary
It has been observed that we may fall unconscious during a stroke. If consciousness is lost, check their pulse and breathing. If there is no pulse, start performing CPR immediately.
Do not give them food or drink
Avoid giving food or drink when you suspect someone is having a stroke. A stroke can cause general muscle weakness or even paralysis. This may result in swallowing difficulty, posing a risk of choking.
Do not give them any medication
Depending on the type of stroke, different types of treatment will be required. While a blood-thinning aspirin may help with ischaemic stroke, it may be detrimental for someone with a hemorrhagic stroke.
With no visible way of distinguishing the type of stroke a person is having, it is best not to administer medication as it could further complicate matters or worsen the condition.
Caring for a loved one post-stroke in Australia
Knowing how to identify the tell-tale signs of stroke and the actions to take is just the tip of the iceberg. The next step will be to assist your loved one in their recovery post-stroke.
Stroke recovery is a gradual process that can take several months to years. Familial support can go a long way in helping your loved ones regain independence and rediscover self-confidence.
The information provided in this post, or in any linked materials, are not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice by a physician. If you or any other person has a medical concern, consult a healthcare provider and seek professional medical treatment.
- Singapore Resuscitation and First Aid Council. (2018). Basic Cardiac Life Support + Automated External Defibrillator [Ebook]. Singapore. Retrieved from https://www.nhcs.com.sg/education-training/continuing-education/Documents/SRFAC%20BCLS+AED%20and%20CPR%28MTM%29+AED%20Manual%20%282018%29.pdf
- Blow to the Brain. (2016). Retrieved 5 December 2019, from http://www.nus.edu.sg/uhc/resources/articles/details/blow-to-the-brain
- Ellen, M. (2018). Hemorrhagic Stroke. Retrieved 5 December 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/hemorrhagic-stroke
- Hersh, E. (2018). Everything You Should Know About Ischemic Stroke. Retrieved 5 December 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/stroke/cerebral-ischemia
- Stroke: Every minute counts. (2013). Retrieved 5 December 2019, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/stroke-every-minute-counts
- Stöppler, M. Stroke: Symptoms & Signs. Retrieved 5 December 2019, from https://www.medicinenet.com/stroke_symptoms_and_signs/symptoms.htm
- Tiah, C. (2019). Treating strokes: A race against time. Retrieved 5 December 2019, from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/treating-stroke-warning-signs-treatment-11853328