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Stroke In Children


What is a stroke?

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.

What are 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.
  • FAST Sings of a Stroke

What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke in infants?

Signs and symptoms will depend on where in the brain the stroke occurred. Signs and symptoms usually appear suddenly, but may not appear until later. Your infant may have any of the following:

  • Seizures
  • Trouble eating
  • Trouble breathing or pauses in breathing
  • Paralysis on one side of his body, or a tendency to use only one arm
  • Developmental delays such as crawling later than usual

What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke in older children and teenagers?

Signs and symptoms will depend on where in the brain the stroke occurred. Signs and symptoms usually appear suddenly, but may not appear until later. Your older child or teenager may have any of the following:

  • Seizures
  • Being less awake than usual or loss of consciousness
  • Headache with or without vomiting
  • Sudden weakness in an arm or leg, or trouble walking
  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior
  • Trouble speaking or swallowing
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Having trouble completing schoolwork

What increases my child's risk for a stroke?

  • Not enough oxygen during labor or birth
  • A heart problem at birth, or a heart problem that develops after birth
  • Sickle cell anemia, Fabry disease, or leukemia
  • A medical condition that affects brain arteries
  • A vascular disease, blood clotting disorder, or brain tumor
  • Dehydration, infection, or head trauma
  • High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol in older children
  • An infection in the amniotic fluid during pregnancy, or membranes in the womb ruptured prematurely
  • His or her mother had preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), diabetes, or abused drugs during pregnancy

How is a stroke diagnosed?

  • Blood tests may be used to check how well your child's blood clots or to check for infection.
  • CT or MRI pictures may be used to find the area of the brain that was affected by the stroke. The pictures may also show bleeding in your child's brain. Do not let your child enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has any metal in or on his body.
  • Arteriography is a test that uses a type of x-ray. Pictures are taken of your child's arteries to look for blood flow blockage and bleeding. Contrast liquid may be injected into your child's arteries to help the arteries show up on x-ray. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is a stroke treated?

Treatment depends on your child's age and the type of stroke he or she had. Treatment will also depend on what has caused the stroke. Any condition that may have caused the stroke will be treated. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to break up clots or help your child's blood clot more easily. Your child may also need medicine to control seizures.
  • Thrombolysis is a procedure used to break apart clots in an artery in the brain. A catheter is guided into the artery until it is near the clot. Medicine is put through the catheter that will help break apart the clot.
  • Surgery may be used to remove a blood clot or to relieve pressure within your child's brain. Your child may also need surgery to place a clip to stop blood flow into an artery in his or her brain.

What can I do to care for my child after a stroke?

  • Take your child to rehabilitation (rehab) as 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 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, such as getting dressed. Therapy can help your child improve his or her ability to walk or keep his or her balance. Take your child to rehab right away. The earlier your child starts rehab, the more effective it will be.
  • Make your child's home safe. Your child may have trouble walking or keeping his or her balance after a stroke. Remove anything your child might trip over. Tape electrical cords down. Keep paths clear throughout your home. 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 use assistive devices. Your child may need to use a walker or other device to help him or her walk safely. He or she may also need devices to help with eating or getting dressed.

How can a stroke in children be prevented?

  • Work with your child's healthcare provider to manage health conditions. Conditions such as sickle cell anemia increase your child's risk for another stroke. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about how to manage health conditions that may cause stroke.
  • 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.
  • Have your child exercise as directed. Activity is important for preventing another stroke. Exercise also helps control blood pressure and weight.
  • 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.
  • Talk to your older child about not smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can increase your child's risk for another stroke and cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if your older child currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before your child uses these products.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Stroke Association
    9707 E. Easter Lane
    Centennial , CO 80112
    Phone: 1- 800 - 787-6537
    Web Address:

Call 911 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
    • FAST Sings of a Stroke
  • 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.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has vision loss or a severe headache.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has trouble having a bowel movement or urinating.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.