Here’s what to do — and what not to do — if someone is having a stroke: Call 911, don’t drive, note the time, keep the victim awake and no aspirin.
Knowing what to do if someone is having a stroke can have a lasting impact on their recovery.
The greatest chance for recovery from stroke occurs when emergency treatment is started immediately.
“Stroke treatments are advancing rapidly, but they all have one thing in common: The sooner we can administer treatment, the better the patient’s chances of recovery,” said Mahan Ghiassi, M.D., endovascular neurosurgeon with Norton Neuroscience Institute.
Here’s what to do — and what not to do — if someone is having a stroke
It may be tempting to drive someone to an emergency room right away, but they’ll get the proper care faster and get to the right emergency room if you call 911. Not all stroke are the same and different stroke require specific treatments that are not available at all hospital facilities. For certain types of strokes, it may be better to go farther to a Comprehensive Stroke Center, and emergency medical technicians are trained to go to the right place.
If you think you are having a stroke, don’t drive to the hospital
Not only are you in better hands with EMTs, but stroke symptoms could quickly impair your ability to drive safely.
Make note of the time
Some strokes can be treated with tPA, a drug that can dissolve the blood clot that is causing the stroke and improves blood flow to the brain. The drug must be administered within 4 1/2 hours of the first symptoms.
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The time also can affect whether endovascular neurosurgery is performed to remove clots, fix aneurysms or address other conditions. The earlier a patient can be evaluated for treatment whether medical, surgical, endovascular or a combination of these therapies, the better the outcome for the patient.
Don’t let them take a nap
Sleepiness can accompany a stroke, and the patient may be convinced that a nap will fix everything. Don’t allow this. If someone is having a stroke like symptoms, they need emergency medical care right away.
Aspirin can make a stroke worse
Most strokes are caused by a blood clot — an ischemic stroke — but about 20% are caused by a ruptured blood vessel or aneurysm — hemorrhagic stroke. If bleeding in the brain is the problem, aspirin could make the problem worse. Self-medicating prior to medical evaluation is not advisable.
Avoid any food or drink as well, since the stroke could compromise swallowing.
Symptoms of stroke — BE FAST*
- Balance — loss of balance, coordination or dizziness
- Eyes — having trouble seeing or change in vision in one or both eyes
- Face — uneven smile or face looks uneven, droopy or is numb
- Arms — one arm drops when raising both arms; numbness or weakness in one arm
- Speech — trouble speaking; slurred or difficult speech
- Time — Note the time when symptoms start: Time lost equals brain lost.
*Adapted from Intermountain Healthcare. BE FAST was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. Copyright 2011, Intermountain Healthcare.