Stroke Signs? Act FAST!SMD
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States, and can happen to anyone at any time. A stroke is an emergency. Knowing how to identify stroke signs early, and taking quick action when someone is having a stroke, can lead to higher survival and lower disability rates. Per the American Stroke Association, 1.9 million brain cells die every minute during an untreated stroke.
What is a Stroke
A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when there is reduced blood flow to an area of the brain. This can be caused by a blockage in a blood vessel (such as a blood clot), or hemorrhage (bleeding) from a blood vessel. When the brain doesn’t receive oxygen and other vital nutrients that are carried in the blood, it will become damaged and eventually die. When this happens, the area of the brain that is affected may stop working properly and the victim may display stroke signs and/or stroke symptoms. While stroke location and severity determine how serious the effects will be, it is important to know that all strokes, big or small, must be treated seriously, and that some strokes even lead to death (approximately 1 out of 8 strokes are fatal, according to the American Stroke Association).
The FAST acronym is an easy way to remember stroke signs and what to do:
- F – Facial Droop
- This is flaccidness on one side of the face. You can confirm this by asking the person to smile. If there is noticeable difference in one side of the face versus the other, this would be considered an abnormal finding and possibly indicative of a stroke.
- A – Arm Drift of Weakness
- This happens on one side of the body (note that weakness all over the body, known as generalized weakness, may or may not be a stroke symptom, but needs to be tended to by a doctor as well). You can confirm this by asking the person to hold both arms out in front of them. If one falls and the other does not, this would be considered an abnormal finding, and possibly indicative of a stroke (Note: a stroke victim may have weakness in their legs as well).
- S – Speech Difficulty
- Includes slurring, inappropriate/confused speech, or difficulty getting words out. If the person is able to speak, ask them to say a sentence with “s” sounds in it, like “the sky is blue in Cincinnati”. If there is a noticeable abnormality in their speech, this could possibly be indicative of a stroke.
- T – Time to Act
- If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately and wait calmly for paramedics to arrive. The paramedics will want to know the last time the person was seen acting normally (without symptoms) so they can pass that information along to doctors at the hospital.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of stroke symptoms. If you are unsure if someone is having a stroke and are concerned about their well-being, call 9-1-1 immediately to be safe.
What to Do if Someone is You Suspect Someone is Having a Stroke
Early recognition and treatment are the best ways to prevent debilitating effects, or even death, from a stroke. Anytime you suspect someone is having a medical emergency involving their brain, you should immediately call 9-1-1. When speaking with the 9-1-1 call taker, use the word “stroke”, even if you are not totally sure, so that dispatchers give responding units a high priority response. While you are waiting for help to arrive, keep yourself and the victim calm. Do not give them anything to eat or drink.
There are no recommendations for medications to administer while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Aspirin can be harmful to patients with bleeding inside of their brain, so do NOT give aspirin. The patient will need to have imaging of their brain done to rule in or out bleeding prior to any medication administration. Take note of the time that you first noticed any stroke signs or symptoms. Unlock doors and clear a path to the patient so that first responders are able to easily access them. Let the paramedics know when the symptoms first began or when you last saw the person acting normally.
Learn More About Strokes
You can learn more about strokes by taking our American Heart Association Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED class, either in our classroom or at your home or office location.
About Vive CPR
Vive CPR offers CPR and First Aid classes for individuals and businesses of all types in the San Francisco Bay Area, including CPR, First Aid, CPR and First Aid, Pediatric CPR and First Aid for childcare providers, ACLS, BLS, Bloodborne Pathogens, Infant CPR for Parents, and more! Visit www.vivecpr.com for additional information.