Be FAST: How to recognize the signs of a stroke

When someone experiences a health emergency in front of you, it can be overwhelming. So many questions suddenly flash through your mind. What is happening? Are they okay? Should I call for help? Should I intervene? Should I not intervene? Should they lie down or sit up? Will I hurt them?

These questions become even more problematic when you are not sure what is happening to the person. This is often the case for those suffering from a stroke as many people don’t know the signs of someone suffering from one and the emotional impact of witnessing a loved one suffer can cause important delays in getting them the treatment they need.
 

Recognizing Signs of a Stroke

Time is of the essence in the case of a stroke, so it is very important to stay calm and spring into action fast. Unlike many health conditions, where it is possible to “wait and see” when symptoms appear, strokes must be treated as a medical emergency. The longer a stroke victim waits for care the lower their chance for recovery.

Always remember the F.A.S.T. rule when it comes to recognizing a stroke.

Face – facial numbness or weakness, especially on one side. Is their smile uneven or does one side of the face droop?

Arm – arm numbness or weakness, especially on one side. Does one arm slope downward? Is there a sudden loss of coordination, numbness or weakness?

Speech – slurred speech or difficulty speaking or understanding. Can the person repeat a simple phrase? Does the speech sound slurred, strange or garbled?

Time – time is important; call EMS/9-1-1 immediately. Do not drive the person to local emergency room! Contact help and wait. If possible, note the time that the stroke occurred and any other information that you feel might be relevant to the paramedics. Every bit of information counts and could help in the person’s recovery. 

Some other signs and symptoms of a stroke include: a sudden, severe headache, dizziness or confusion, unconsciousness or temporary loss of consciousness, numbness, vision, and bladder control.
With the ambulance on its way, it is important to make sure the person is comfortable. Having them sit or lie down is okay. Just keep them calm and reassure them that they will be okay, and help will arrive shortly.

Want to know more? 

If you haven’t yet taken one, consider taking a first aid course. Knowing how to recognize and treat emergencies, from an asthma attack or injury to an allergic reaction or heart attack, could save a life. 


 
Also, download our free First Aid App to have helpful resources at your fingertips should an emergency happen around you.
 
For more information, visit www.redcross.ca/firstaid
 

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