Children's Neurology

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Childhood Strokes

You might think strokes only happen to older adults. However, this brain event is one of the top 10 causes of death in children and teens. Childhood strokes most often happen before age 1, and babies can even have them before or right after birth.

Many children who have strokes, even severe ones, can get better. However, spotting a stroke early and getting treatment quickly is key, according to pediatric neurology and congenital heart specialists at Batson Children's Hospital, a part of Children's of Mississippi.

Childhood strokes can cause multiple disabilities, including paralysis, seizures and speech, vision, behavioral and learning differences. In some cases, it can prove fatal. Stroke is the sixth leading cause of death in children.

There are several types of stroke, but when it comes to treatment, every moment counts. Take a child directly to the emergency room. The doctors there will perform imaging tests to diagnose or rule out a stroke.

Symptoms

Common stroke symptoms in adults can also happen in children and adolescents, but depending on a child's age, symptoms may also include:

  • Seizures
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Severe headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance or coordination

FAST action

Use the FAST test to help recognize stroke symptoms in children (and adults):

  • Face - Ask the child to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms - Ask the child to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech - Ask the child to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
  • Time - If you observe any of these signs, it's time to call 911. The more quickly a stroke is identified and treated, the better!