Stroke: Emergency first aid

On average, someone in Switzerland suffers a stroke (or apoplexy) every 30 minutes. 16 000 people are affected in Switzerland each year. What are the symptoms of a stroke and how should I respond?

What is it?

What is a stroke?

During a stroke, the brain does not get enough oxygen and nutrients. This can be caused by a blood clot or a haemorrhaged blood vessel. Both will cause damage to the affected brain tissue. If the symptoms are not recognised quickly, it will usually result in permanent damage.

Find out more about the clinical picture of strokes/apoplexy.

What are the symptoms?

How do I recognise a stroke?

The symptoms can be identified with the FAST tests:

Face:

Ask the person to smile. Is their face drooping on one side?

Arms:

Ask the person to extend their arms out in front of them and turn their palms facing upwards. Does one arm drop, or do the palms of the hand turn inwards?

Speech:

Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence after you. Is their speech slurred, incoherent or hard to understand?

Time:

If person responds abnormally to any of the tests, immediately call 144 and describe the symptoms.

Early signs and symptoms of stroke

The symptoms of a stroke occur suddenly. Sometimes there are early symptoms, such as dizziness, temporary vision problems, speech disturbances, loss of feeling or problems walking. These temporary symptoms should be treated as warning signs of a stroke.

Depending on which region of the brain is affected, a stroke can cause different symptoms. Strokes are often accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • One-sided paralysis
  • Vision, speech and hearing disturbances
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache
     
What should you do?

What should I do if a person has had a stroke?

If you suspect a person has had a stroke, you must act immediately, as prompt medical treatment can reduce permanent damage.

  • Call 144 to report the emergency
  • Explain that you think the person may have had a stroke
  • Give the name, address, and age of the patient
  • Position the patient on a hard surface with their upper body slightly elevated
  • Open tight clothes, ties, or bras
  • Do not give the patient anything to drink, because their ability to swallow might be impaired
  • Ask passers-by to help flag down the ambulance so that you can stay with the patient and help keep them calm