If you suspect stroke, call 999

We live in an era that values speed. These days you can have almost super-fast anything – from broadband to noodle soup.

It’s important to be speedy within the world of first aid too – especially when it comes to treating someone for stroke.

One stroke happens every three minutes and 27 seconds in the UK*. That’s about the same time it takes to microwave popcorn.

The good news is we can all very easily help someone having a stroke.

You just need to be able to spot it and call 999. Fast.

How to recognise stroke

As stroke prevents the blood supply reaching the brain, this affects the body’s functions – leaving telltale signs for you to look out for.

If you suspect a stroke, think FAST.

F = Face – is there weakness or drooping on one side of their face?
A = Arms – can they raise both arms? Look out for weakness or inability to move on one side.
S = Speech – is their speech easily understood? Listen for slurring.
T = Time – time to call 999 if you notice any of these signs and suspect a stroke.

Remember, a stroke can be very frightening and the person may become distressed. Help keep them calm and reassure them that help is on the way.

The importance of speed

The quicker someone is diagnosed as having a stroke and treated, the better their chance of recovery.

Strokes are caused by a blockage of blood supply to the brain – but there are different types of blockages.

Treatment for stroke depends on the type of blockage a person has experienced – but this can only start once the cause has been determined.

And the only way to definitively find out which type of stroke has occurred is through a brain scan.

Getting from the point of someone having a stroke to results from a brain scan understandably takes some time. Your ability to spot stroke and dial 999 quickly can shave vital minutes off this process.

Different strokes

Most strokes are caused by a blockage (usually a blood clot) in one of the small blood vessels in the brain. Less common strokes are caused by bleeding in or around the brain when a blood vessel bursts.

If someone has a stroke caused by a blood clot, they can be treated with clot-busting medicine that breaks down the clot.

However, for this treatment to work most effectively it needs to be given within four and a half hours of the stroke symptoms starting.

If someone has a stroke caused by bleeding, they may need surgery to stop this, remove blood or relieve any pressure that has built up around their brain.

In both cases time really is of the essence.

So if you ever suspect someone of having a stroke, think FAST – the faster a person receives medical help, the less damage is caused.

* Statistic from Stroke UK