Does Stroke Strike Children?
The very mention of stroke evokes images of adults, particularly elderly people. But stroke doesn’t differentiate. Children of all ages including infants can be affected by stroke. Let’s analyse the scenario further.
What is stroke?
A stroke is a brain injury. For the brain to function properly a steady flow of blood and nutrients is required. When the flow is interrupted because of a blocked blood vessel (ischemic stroke) or bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke), brain cells start to die. This condition is called stroke.
Stroke in children
Often, stroke in children is not diagnosed properly. The most important reason for this is that the condition is not normally suspected in children. This makes stroke in children particularly dangerous.
What are the risk factors for stroke in children?
Here are some of the most common conditions that put children at risk:
- Heart ailments
- Sickle cell disease
- Meningitis, encephalitis and other such infections
- Injuries, particularly head injury
- Certain metabolic disorders
- Blood clotting
- Congenital defects
- Genetic conditions
- High blood pressure
While these are certain common risk factors, certain cases appear with no cause found at all.
Stroke symptoms vary from children to children depending on their age.
In newborns, the symptoms include:
- Extreme sleepiness/change in mental state
- Tend to use only one side of the body
In older children, stroke symptoms are almost like in the elderly. They are:
- Severe headache, sometimes with vomiting
- Trouble with vision or moving the eyes
- Weakness/numbness on the face or body
- Dizziness or confusion
- Trouble walking/loss of coordination
- Trouble speaking
- Loss of consciousness
To be diagnosed properly, a detailed health history of the child needs to be provided. These included the history of infection, injuries, growth, development, etc. In addition to these, the child will also be examined for weakness, numbness or other signs of stroke. Stroke in children is diagnosed with the help of the following tests:
- Brain imagining studies
- Blood tests
- Heart and blood vessel studies
- Lumbar puncture
- Electroencephalogram or EEG
- Pulse oximetry
The sooner the treatment starts, the higher the chances of recovery.
Treatment methods include the following:
- Administering IV fluid to avoid reverse dehydration
- Blood transfusion
- Medicines to clot blood
- Surgery, if required
Unlike adults, children, if treated on time can come back to normalcy fast. This is because their brains are still in the developing stage. After the immediate, life-saving treatment children may require to undergo physical, occupational and rehabilitation therapy.
In the wake of a symptom in your child, which you think is of stroke, you need to act immediately. Remembering F.A. S.T can help you in this regard.
Here’s what F.A.S.T. stands for:
F– Face dropping, especially while smiling
A – Arm weakness, yet another common sign
S – Speech difficulty
T – Time to act
If you find any of the symptoms, which are associated with stroke even remotely, you need to act fast. Remembering F.A.S.T. is the best way to do it.
It’s not easy to prevent stroke in children, because often first symptoms appear with the onslaught of stroke. But by acting fast, the damage can be avoided or reduced.
Dr. Harish A H | Consultant – Neurology | Sahyadri Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Shimoga