The dreaded stroke is a medical condition in which an area of the brain is cut off from its blood supply. Deprived of their primary source of oxygen and glucose, the brain’s cells consequently die. Thus, whether one suffers from an ischaemic stroke (from lack of blood flow) or a haemorrhagic stroke (from the rupturing of blood vessels), the affliction has the power to cause permanent brain damage or even death. In Australia alone, up to 50,000 people suffer a stroke every year, and treatment for strokes demands as much as 54 billion AUD per annum (Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland).
Due to the ubiquity of strokes, they are one type of medical emergency that students of first aid training in Melbourne and in other localities are trained to recognise. At first, it is difficult to attribute symptoms to a stroke as the symptoms themselves can vary in range—from temporary paralysis, to slurred speech, to headaches, and to dizziness and confusion. Among the factors that decide which symptoms manifest are the region of the brain that is affected and the severity of the stroke. Nevertheless, those who can recognise symptoms of an imminent stroke—and respond to them accordingly—will find themselves well-disposed to save a life.
What are the various symptoms that can indicate a stroke, and what behaviours should an onlooker adapt in order to intervene? To answer those questions, here is a briefer on common stroke symptoms, the “FAST” approach to strokes, and other points of action in case someone in your proximity is suffering from a stroke.
What Are the Possible Symptoms of a Stroke, and What Should the First Response Be?
The family of symptoms that can indicate a stroke is extensive. The victim may be exhibiting anywhere from one to several of these symptoms at a time. Be on the watch if someone is experiencing the following:
* Unusual weakness, loss of balance or coordination, or “pins and needles” sensations in the limbs;
* Splitting headaches;
* Dizziness, disorientation, or memory loss;
* Blurred vision and/or involuntary eye movement;
* Difficulty speaking or understanding speech, and;
* Muscle stiffness.
For an easier time, you can commit the acronym FAST to your memory. FAST entails a series of quick tests to guide the afflicted persons and first aider in taking the immediate recourse for action. FAST stands for the following:
F – Face drooping. One tell-tale sign of a stroke is facial numbness. Ask the person to try to smile. Take note if they have an exceptionally hard time and if their face looks numb or uneven.
A – Arm weakness. The second quick test that you can conduct is to ask the person to raise both arms. Weakness or numbness in one side may point toward a stroke.
S – Speech difficulty. Persons afflicted with a stroke may have a hard time speaking properly or not be able to speak at all. Consider it an urgent matter if the person in question is having a hard time repeating a simple sentence.
T – Time to call emergency services. If the person you’re with has shown any of the above symptoms, it’s time to intervene and call Triple Zero (000). You should do so even if the symptoms appear to go away.
Additional First Aid, Medical Treatment, and Follow-Up for Stroke Victims
In case of a stroke, the victim will likely be transported to the emergency room (ER) of the nearest hospital. They will then be entrusted to the care of a neurologist or to specialists in endovascular surgical neuroradiology (ESNR), interventional radiology (IR), interventional cardiology (IC), or critical care.
Once you’ve made the call for additional medical assistance, you can apply suitable first aid techniques to ensure the victim’s safety, comfort, and ease of breathing. The correct position is for them to be lying on one side with their head slightly raised. If the stroke victim is having difficulty breathing, make sure to loosen constrictive articles of clothing such as ties and scarves. If they are not breathing at all, perform CPR. In addition, keep them warm with a loose blanket and assure them that they are safe in your hands and that help is on the way. Take note of all the important information you’ll need to relay once you are in the presence of doctors, nurses, or paramedics.
Ultimately, see to it that persons who have suffered a stroke will be well on their way to recovery. In the meantime, you can advocate better living and the prevention of strokes through healthy eating, stress relief, and ample protection from the heat. Even before a stroke happens, do your part in learning about the condition, acting FAST, and championing the health of your fellow Australians.
*This article is for informational purposes only and does constitute, replace, or qualify as RPL for our first aid training courses.