Raising awareness on childhood strokes
It seems inconceivable that a child could suffer a stroke, but it’s not only possible, it may occur more often than we think. According to the American Heart Association, in the Unites States nearly five children in every 100,000 suffered a stroke between 1997 and 2003. New research finds that adults could be better prepared to respond to symptoms if they are better educated on what signs to look for.
The research, presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2014, found that several factors caused parents whose children had strokes to delay getting them to the hospital. The average time from the onset of symptoms to arrival at the emergency room (ER) was a bit less than two hours and in some cases as long as 24 hours.
Participants included 28 parents of children who had a stroke, ranging in age from infant to teen. Researchers found that symptoms of stroke didn’t vary according to age, however, seizures in younger children were more common and strokes occurred more often at home than school. Although most of the parents thought the symptoms were serious, only about half called 911. Thirty-six percent considered a stroke as a possibility and 21 percent had a “wait and see attitude or called a relative before taking emergency action.”
The warning signs of a stroke in children are the same in adults and include:
- Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg
- Sudden difficulty speaking
- Sudden vision problems
- Sudden walking difficulty
- Sudden headache
“Getting to the hospital quickly is an essential first step to develop strategies to improve access to emergency treatment in children,” said lead study author Dr. Mark Mackay in a statement.
Dr. Mackay, director of the Children’s Stroke Program at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, added that children won’t receive the benefits of emergency clot-busting treatment unless “we develop strategies to improve the rapid recognition of childhood stroke.” This type of treatment must be started within three to four-and-a-half hours of when symptoms begin.
He recommended that child neurologists educate primary care doctors, pediatricians, heart specialists and ER doctors about stroke in children as well as parents who have children with conditions that could increase risk of stroke such as sickle cell disease or heart conditions.
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