How to Help Someone Having a Stroke? Act as FAST as you can.

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: July, 2023

How to Identify a Suspected Stroke – Act ‘FAST’

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.

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?

What to do:

  1. Call 999/112 immediately and ask for an ambulance
  2. Stay with the casualty. Even if the symptoms disappear, they should still got to hospital.
  3. Take a few notes, so you can remember what happened – particularly the time that the casualty was last known 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. Give them lots of reassurance.
  6. Loosen any restrictive clothing that could cause breathing difficulties.
  7. If weakness is obvious in any limb, support it but avoid pulling on it when moving the person.
  8. If the person is conscious, sit or lay them down with their head slightly raised and supported
  9. If they become 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, heart disease or high blood pressure, being aware of the symptoms is even more important.

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.

About ‘TIAs’- transient ischaemic attacks or ‘mini-strokes’:

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. 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.

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.

What is a stroke and how are they treated?

A stroke is a blockage or bleed in the vessels of the brain. Watch this short NHS video for more detail on different types of stroke, their causes and ways to prevent them. Treatment for Strokes has advanced greatly in the past decade with a much higher percentage of patients returning to normal lives after medical intervention and rehabilitation through physiotherapy and speech therapy. It is still a life threatening and life changing condition though and sadly still leads to death in some cases.

Further information

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

Get confident – get trained!

We cover first aid for strokes on our First Aid courses. You can find out more about our range of courses here.

Everyone on our courses receives a FREE digital first aid manual. We have a range of manuals relevant to the courses we teach – Outdoor, Equestrian, First Aid at Work, Paediatric and Sports. They are a great resource that you can download onto your phone or other device and have all that first aid knowledge at your fingertips. You can view them and buy them for less than £4 here.

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