Stroke in Childhood not just ‘disease of the elderly’ say health professionals

Around 400 children in the UK suffer from a stroke every year, leaving many with severe physical and mental impairments.

This is why we urge all healthcare professionals, parents and young people to familiarise themselves with the signs of childhood stroke.

With better knowledge of the signs amongst parents and doctors, children could receive appropriate diagnosis and treatment more quickly, minimising the risk of severe long-term health problems.

The clinical guideline and parent and carer guideline, published by the RCPCH with funding from the Stroke Association, includes signs to watch out for spotting strokes in children.

But first...

Hear from a parent whose child suffered from a stroke at 10 years old.

There was nothing wrong with my daughter before she had her stroke. She’d always been a really healthy child – she was fit, she ran, danced – she was a great ballet dancer. It’s fair to say that she has really suffered because of the stroke. She’s been left with quite severe physical disabilities [...] and has some problems with memory and processing [...] All the normal things she might have hoped to enjoy as a teenager are now so much harder.
This guidance will be incredibly useful and we need to make as many parents as possible aware of it. It’s important that doctors don’t rule out stroke as a possible diagnosis; it isn’t just a disease of the elderly. If you’re able to spot the signs of childhood stroke early and the right medical help is given quickly, there’s a chance that some of the long term health effects can be minimised – and that can only be a good thing.

Signs to watch for are similar to those that adults show, including weakness of the face, one side of the body and difficulty with speech.

These signs have been highlighted as part of the ‘FAST’ campaign for recognising stroke in adults but apply at all ages.

© Stroke Association

Less commonly, childhood strokes may present with seizures or fits affecting one part of the body or, rarely, a new onset sudden severe headache.

Many children affected by stroke will have non-specific signs of illness, such as a decrease in conscious level or vomiting.

In an attempt to quickly diagnosis a potential stroke, scans should be carried out within an hour of arrival at hospital for every child with a suspected stroke.

The new clinical guideline has considered the total rehabilitation pathway of a child who has suffered from a stroke - from the initial period in hospital, through to going back home and to school and other important periods of childhood transition.

If you have any questions in relation to the development of this guideline, please contact us on clinical.standards@rcpch.ac.uk.

For media queries, please contact us on press.office@rcpch.ac.uk.

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