This leaflet is created from first aid advice provided by St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid charity. This advice is no substitute for first aid training - find a training course near you.
A stroke happens when the flow of blood to part of the brain is cut off. This is normally due to a clot in a blood vessel or a rupture which stops the flow of blood getting to the brain.
The brain needs the oxygen in the blood to work properly. Lack of oxygen causes damage to the brain cells. The long-term effects of a stroke depend on which part of the brain is affected and how large an area is damaged.
A stroke (or brain attack) is a medical emergency - you need to act FAST.
What to look for
If you think someone is having a stroke, check the three main symptoms using the FAST test:
- Face ‒ look at their face and ask them to smile. Are they only able to smile on one side of their mouth? If yes, this is not normal.
- Arms ‒ ask them to raise both arms. Are they only able to lift one arm? If yes, this is not normal.
- Speech ‒ ask them to speak. Are they struggling to speak clearly? If yes, this is not normal.
- Time ‒ if the answer to any of these three questions is yes, then it is time to call 999 or 112 for medical help and say you think the casualty is having a stroke.
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What you need to do
- While you wait for help to arrive, keep them comfortable and supported. If they're responsive then you can help them into a comfortable position.
- Keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response. Don't give them anything to eat or drink because it could be difficult for them to swallow so they might choke.
Note: these hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid. St John Ambulance holds first aid courses throughout the country.
Adapted from the St John Ambulance leaflet: stroke. Copyright for this leaflet is with St John Ambulance.