During 2018 we are focusing on different conditions that we need to be aware of as First Aiders. In January we looked at seizures and what to do, in February we looked at heart health; both how to look after our hearts with 7 things to do to keep them healthy and what to do in the case of a heart attack. This month we are looking at strokes, what they are, what we can do to prevent them and what to do if we suspect someone is having a stroke.
Last month the Stroke Association (www.stroke.org.uk) produced a 46-page report on the state of the nation when it comes to strokes. You can find it here: https://www.stroke.org.uk/system/files/sotn_2018.pdf
Did you know there are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK each year? That’s around one stroke every five minutes.
We should all be aware of the symptoms and what we should do if we think someone (or ourselves) is having a stroke.
What is a stroke?
There are two main types of stroke and the most common cause (85% of strokes) is a blood clot blocking a blood vessel supplying a part of the brain. The other is caused when a blood vessel ruptures, resulting in an area of the brain being ‘squashed’ by the pressure of the blood. In either type of stroke the signs and symptoms are very similar and like all organs, the brain needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain injury, disability and possibly death.
Some people have a small stroke, sometimes called a mini-stroke. These are like strokes but after a mini stroke you get better in a day or two. The signs are the same as for a stroke, but may not be as severe. If you see someone having one of these, you still need to phone 999 for an ambulance straight away.
Could you spot the signs of stroke?
It’s vital to know how to spot the warning signs of a stroke in yourself or someone else. Using the FAST test is the best way to do this. Watch the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8saTsVFFr4
Face: has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile? Has their mouth or eye dropped?
Arms: can they raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech: is their speech slurred? Can they understand what you say?
Time: to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs of a stroke.
Even if the symptoms disappear while you're waiting for the ambulance, it's still important to go to the hospital for an assessment. It is better to go to the hospital even if you’re not sure that it is a stroke. It is vital you call for help straight away, as an estimated 1.9 million neurons in the brain are lost every minute a stroke is untreated. The speed of treatment can have a dramatic impact on the person’s recovery, but often it is delayed because helpers phone a doctor instead of 999.
Other symptoms and signs may include:
At the hospital an urgent scan is required to find out the cause of the stroke so that the correct treatment can be given quickly. The sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen.
On our First Aid courses we teach what to do in case of a stroke. While you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive lay the casualty down, is possible, with their head and shoulders raised. Do not offer them any food or drink, as they may not be able to swallow effectively.
If they are unconscious put them in the recovery position, make sure the airways are clear. Keep reassuring the person and don’t assume that they won’t understand. If you can monitor and record breathing, pulse and levels of response that would be fantastic information for the paramedics when they arrive.
How can you reduce chances of a stroke?
Take a look at the 7 ways to keep your healthy blog (or video) we created. The causes of stroke are similar to those of heart disease:-
Read more at www.nhs.uk/actfast
Book onto a first aid course in your local area and learn about dealing with all types of emergency. Knowing what to look out for could save someone's life, or even your own. Make 2018 the year you learn how to save a life.