Published: 2018-04-18T14:59:00Z

A stroke is a medical emergency it occurs when there's bleeding in the brain or when normal blood flow to the brain is blocked. The brain needs the oxygen in the blood to work properly. Lack of oxygen causes damage to the brain cells. The speed of treatment can have a dramatic impact on the casualty's recovery, but unfortunately it is often delayed because helpers call the doctor instead of calling 999.

A stroke can happen to a person of any age. There are two types of stroke. The most common is caused by a blood clot, blocking a blood vessel supplying part of the brain. The other is caused if a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, resulting in an area of the brain being 'squashed' by the pressure of the blood.

In either type of stroke, the signs and symptoms are very similar and an area of brain will die.

An urgent scan in hospital is required to find out the cause of the stroke, so that the correct treatment can be given quickly. 

If you think someone is having a stroke, use the FAST test:


Ask them to smile. Is there weakness on one side of their face?


Ask them to raise both arms. Are the only able to lift one arm?


Ask them to speak. Are they struggling to speak clearly?


If the answer to any of these three questions is yes, then it is time to call 999 and say you think the casualty is having a stroke.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Loss of balance
  • Lack of coordination
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Sudden onset of confusion


  • Maintain airway and breathing
  • Call 999 for emergency help
  • Place an unconscious casualty in the recovery position
  • Lay the conscious casualty down, with head and shoulders raised
  • Reassure the casualty - do not assume that they don't understand
  • Monitor and record breathing, pulse and levels of response
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