FAST Stroke test advice

How to Help Someone Having a Stroke

How to Help Someone Having a Stroke?

This post explains how to help someone who may be having a stroke. We regularly update our how to blogs, so bookmark this page for your future reference on how to help someone who may be having a stroke. Last Updated: January, 2021

How to Identify a Suspected Stroke – Act FAST

How to Help Someone Having a Stroke? The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person but usually come on suddenly. As different parts of your brain control different parts of your body, your symptoms will depend on the part of your brain affected and the extent of the damage.

Strokes are usually associated with older people, but can also affect younger adults and even children. This article from The BBC tells the story of a young woman who suffered a stroke while alone at home.

The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have drooped. Ask them to smile or stick out their tongue. They may struggle to do this or can only stick their tongue out on one side.
  • Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms at the same time and keep them there. You could also hold out both your hands ask them to squeeze your fingers – they may not be able to grip with one hand.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.
  • Time – it is time to dial 999/112 immediately if you suspect ANY of these signs or symptoms. Tell the operator or ambulance crew what time they were last known to be ok. This will help determine the appropriate treatment they need to receive.

How to Help Someone Having a Stroke?

If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999/112 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Even if the symptoms of a stroke disappear while you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive, they should still go to hospital for an assessment, usually involving a CT Scan.

What do you do when someone is having a stroke?

  1. Call 999/112 immediately
  2. Stay with the casualty
  3. Take a few notes, so you can remember what happened. Particularly the time that the casualty was last know to be OK. Tell this to the emergency services.
  4. Do not offer the person food or medicine
  5. Stay calm and keep a positive outlook
  6. If the person is conscious, sit or lay them down with their head slightly raised and supported
  7. Loosen any restrictive clothing that could cause breathing difficulties.
  8. If weakness is obvious in any limb, support it and avoid pulling on it when moving the person.
  9. If they are unconscious place the casualty in the recovery position
  10. If they are not breathing start CPR straightaway.

Other possible Stroke symptoms

Symptoms in the FAST test identify most strokes, but occasionally a stroke can cause different symptoms. Other symptoms and signs may include:

  • Complete paralysis of one side of the body
  • Sudden loss or blurring of vision
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty understanding what others are saying
  • Problems with balance and co-ordination
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A sudden and very severe headache resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
  • Loss of consciousness

If you live with or care for somebody in a high-risk group, such as someone who is elderly or has diabetes or high blood pressure, being aware of the symptoms is even more important.

’Mini-stroke’ or transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

Symptoms that disappear quickly (and in less than 24 hours) may mean you have had a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) and you could be at risk of having a full stroke in the near future.

The symptoms of a TIA are the same as a stroke, but they tend to only last between a few minutes and a few hours before disappearing completely.

Although the symptoms do improve, a TIA should never be ignored as it is a serious warning sign there is a problem with the blood supply to your brain and means you are at an increased risk of having a stroke in the near future.

If you have had a TIA, you should contact your GP, local hospital or out-of-hours service, as soon as possible.

Further information

If you’d like to know more about Strokes, there is a further article on our blog below. You might also be interested in this presentation that took place at the First Aid Conference 2019 in which Alan Flynn from the Stroke Association describes his personal experience of suffering a stroke.

We also found this article detailing the ACLS Suspected Stroke Algorhythm interesting. It’s follows the American Heart Association Guidelines, rather than European Resuscitation Guidelines, but gives an interesting insight into ‘what happens next’ after the emergency services have taken over.

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