• Stroke

    What is a Stroke?

    A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is interrupted by a blood clot, resulting in the death of brain cells. A stroke can also be caused by bleeding into the brain tissue. Strokes can cause permanent brain damage, but with quick action, sometimes the damage can be stopped or reversed. Although strokes are most common in older adults, a person of any age, even a child, can have a stroke.

    Some people experience transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), or “mini-strokes.” TIAs cause signs and symptoms similar to those of a stroke, but the signs and symptoms go away after a short period of time. A person who has had a TIA is at very high risk for having a stroke in the near future. In fact, more than 10 percent of people who have a TIA will have a stroke within 3 months, with half of these strokes happening within 48 hours of the TIA. For this reason, whenever a person experiences signs and symptoms of stroke, even if the signs and symptoms seem to go away, the person should seek immediate medical attention.

    Emergency Steps


    Check the scene safety, form an initial impression, obtain consent and put on PPE, as appropriate.


    Check for signs and symptoms.

    • Trouble talking (slurring or trouble forming words)*
    • Trouble understanding what others are saying*
    • Drooling or trouble swallowing*
    • Drooping on one side of face*
    • Trouble seeing*
    • Weakness, paralysis or numbness of face, arms or legs (on one side)*
    • Sudden, severe headache*
    • Dizziness or loss of balance*
    • Confusion*
    • Loss of responsiveness*

    Note: Signs and symptoms with a * require immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Call 9-1-1 and get equipment if the person requires immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Give Care.

    General Care: Stroke

    1. Note when signs or symptoms started or last time the person was known to be well.
    2. Place the person in the recovery position if responsive but not fully awake, is drooling or has trouble swallowing.
    3. Continue checking them as appropriate to determine if additional care is needed.
    4. Keep them from getting cold or overheated.
    5. Give care for shock, if necessary.
    6. Stay with the person.
    7. Reassure them you will help and that EMS has been called (if appropriate).
    8. Watch for changes in condition, including breathing and responsiveness, and give care as appropriate and trained.

    Stroke FAQs

    What is FAST mnemonic?

    The FAST mnemonic is one way of remembering the common signs of a stroke.

    • Face: Is there a weakness or drooping on one side of the face?
    • Arm: Does one arm drift downward, or appear to be weak?
    • Speech: Does the person have trouble speaking, or is speech slurred?
    • Time: If the person has trouble performing any of these actions or shows and signs and symptoms of a stroke, note the time that the signs and symptoms started and call 9-1-1 or the designated emergency number immediately. Prompt medical attention may reduce the amount of disability the person experiences as a result of the stroke.

    What if I can’t understand what the person is saying?

    Somebody who is having a stroke may have difficulty speaking clearly, but they may be able to understand what you say. Reassure them, speak slowly and acknowledge that help is coming.

    Why do people have symptoms like a drooping face, a weak arm and slurred speak when they have a stroke?

    Strokes are caused by an interruption in blood supply to the brain. Brain cells become damaged and begin to die, which affects the body’s functions. This may result in facial or limb weakness.

    Why does the stroke tend to affect only one side of the body?

    One half of the brain controls one side of the body, while the other half controls the other side. Disruption of blood flow to the brain generally involves only one side of the brain, so only one side of the brain and body is affected. In addition, for many people the language area is associated with the left side of the brain, near the area that controls motor function for the right side of the body. A stroke with right hand and speech problems is common.

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