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Stroke in Children
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
A stroke happens when blood flow to part of the brain is interrupted. This can cause serious brain damage from a lack of oxygen. Brain function may be affected depending on where the stroke happens. A stroke can happen when your child is still in the womb, or at any age after birth. A stroke caused by a blood clot is called an ischemic stroke. A stroke caused by a burst or torn blood vessel is called a hemorrhagic stroke. Signs and symptoms of a stroke will depend on where in the brain it occurred. Signs and symptoms usually appear suddenly.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:
- Your child has any of the following signs of a stroke:
- Numbness or drooping on one side of the face
- Weakness in an arm or leg
- Confusion or difficulty speaking
- Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
- Your child's arm or leg is warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- Your child has a seizure.
- Your child feels lightheaded, short of breath, and has chest pain.
- Your child coughs up blood.
Call your child's pediatrician if:
- Your child has vision loss or a severe headache.
- Your child has trouble having a bowel movement or urinating.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
Your child may need any of the following:
- Seizure medicine controls and prevents seizures.
- Blood thinners help prevent blood clots. Examples of blood thinners include heparin and warfarin. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. The following are general safety guidelines to follow while you are taking a blood thinner:
- Watch for bleeding and bruising while you take blood thinners. Watch for bleeding from your gums or nose. Watch for blood in your urine and bowel movements. Use a soft washcloth on your skin, and a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth. This can keep your skin and gums from bleeding. If you shave, use an electric shaver. Do not play contact sports.
- Tell your dentist and other healthcare providers that you take anticoagulants. Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you take this medicine.
- Do not start or stop any medicines unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Many medicines cannot be used with blood thinners.
- Tell your healthcare provider right away if you forget to take the medicine, or if you take too much.
- Warfarin is a blood thinner that you may need to take. The following are things you should be aware of if you take warfarin:
- Foods and medicines can affect the amount of warfarin in your blood. Do not make major changes to your diet while you take warfarin. Warfarin works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables and certain other foods. Ask for more information about what to eat when you are taking warfarin.
- You will need to see your healthcare provider for follow-up visits when you are on warfarin. You will need regular blood tests. These tests are used to decide how much medicine you need.
- Antiplatelets , such as aspirin, help prevent blood clots. Take your antiplatelet medicine exactly as directed. These medicines make it more likely for you to bleed or bruise. If you are told to take aspirin, do not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead.
- Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Know the warning signs of a stroke:
The word F.A.S.T. can help you remember and recognize warning signs of a stroke.
- F = Face: One side of the face droops.
- A = Arms: One arm starts to drop when both arms are raised.
- S = Speech: Speech is slurred or sounds different than usual.
- T = Time: A person who is having a stroke needs to be seen immediately. A stroke is a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment. Some medicines and treatments work best if given within a few hours of a stroke.
Follow up with your child's pediatrician or neurologist as directed:
Your child may need to come in for regular tests of his or her brain function. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Your child's healthcare provider will test your child's recovery 90 days (3 months) after the stroke. This may be done over the phone or in person. The provider will ask how well your child can do the activities he or she did before the stroke. The provider will also ask how well your child can do daily activities without help. Your child's provider may make recommendations for your child based on the test. For example, your child may need someone to help him or her walk safely. Your child may also need help with daily activities, such as getting dressed. Based on the answers, your child's provider may do this test again over time.
Take your child to rehabilitation (rehab) if directed:
Rehab is an important part of treatment. Rehab can help your child relearn how to walk, read, or do other activities lost because of the stroke. A speech therapist helps your child relearn or improve his or her ability to talk and swallow. Physical therapists can help your child gain strength and build endurance. Occupational therapists teach your child new ways to do daily activities. Therapy can help your child improve his or her ability to walk or keep his or her balance.
Make your home safe for your child:
Your child may have trouble walking or keeping his or her balance after a stroke. The following can help lower the risk for falls:
- Remove anything your child might trip over.
- Keep paths clear throughout your home. Tape electrical cords down so your child does not trip on them.
- Make sure your home is well lighted.
- Put nonslip materials on surfaces that might be slippery. An example is your bathtub or shower floor. Help your child get into and out of the shower or bathtub.
- Help your child use assistive devices, if needed. Your child may need to use a walker or cane. He or she may also need devices to help with daily activities.
Help prevent another stroke in your child:
- Manage health conditions. A condition such as diabetes can increase your child's risk for a stroke. Control your child's blood sugar level if he or she has hyperglycemia or diabetes. Make sure your child takes his or her prescribed medicines and checks blood sugar levels as directed.
- Check your child's blood pressure as directed. High blood pressure can increase the for a stroke. If your child has high blood pressure, follow directions for controlling it.
- Offer your child a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Your child should eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Offer foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar. Choose foods that are high in potassium, such as potatoes and bananas. A dietitian can help you create healthy meal plans.
- Have your child exercise as directed. Activity is important for preventing another stroke. Exercise also helps control blood pressure and weight. Children and teenagers should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. It may help to make exercise a family activity. Find an activity or exercise your child enjoys.
- Help your child maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much your child should weigh. Ask the provider to help you create a weight loss plan if your child is overweight. Providers can help you and your child break weight loss into small goals if your child has a lot of weight to lose.
- Talk to your teenager about not smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can increase the risk for another stroke. Ask healthcare providers for information if your teenager currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to providers before he or she uses these products.
For support and more information:
- National Stroke Association
9707 E. Easter Lane
Centennial , CO 80112
Phone: 1- 800 - 787-6537
Web Address: http://www.stroke.org
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