Fort Worth, Texas,
11
February
2015
|
07:58 PM
America/Chicago

Warning signs of pediatric stroke

We look at the risks of children and strokes

The National Stroke Association says stroke happens in about 1 in 4,000 live births. The risk of stroke from birth through age 18 is almost 11 in 100,000 children per year. Strokes are slightly more common in children under age 2. Boys and African-American children are at a higher risk for stroke than other groups.

And yet, unless it happens to your child, most of us never think of children having a stroke.

“Unfortunately pediatric strokes have been ignored for a long time as a true entity,” said Fernando Acosta Jr., M.D., associate director of Cook Children’s Pediatric Neurorehabilitation and Movement Disorder Program. “This has changed over the last few years. The awareness is increasing.”

Strokes in adults are often brought on by behavior such as cholesterol, high cholesterol, a history of smoking, too much alcohol and obesity. For children, strokes are usually caused by birth defects, infections such as meningitis and encephalitis, trauma and blood disorders such as sickle cell disease.

“A problem with pediatric strokes, in contrast to those in adults, is that in pediatric strokes, the causes and circumstances are incredible diverse,” said Marcela Torres, M.D. medical director of Hematology at Cook Children’s. “For example, the physicians at Cook Children’s Stroke Clinic see children from 0 to 18 years. Additionally, the potential causes of stroke vary radically from a neonatal stroke to the stroke in a teenager/young adult.

Related Disabilities

Stroke-related disabilities is another area where childhood and adult stroke survivors can differ.

While strokes in children can be devastating, the good news is children often have a better ability to heal because of the greater plasticity or flexibility of the child’s nervous system and brain. A child’s brain is still developing, therefore it may have a greater ability to repair itself. With the help of physical and speech therapy, most childhood stroke survivors recover the use of their arms, legs and speech.

Symptoms of a stroke

The most effective stroke treatments must be given within the first three hours after stroke symptoms start. By recognizing signs of stroke in children and acting fast, you can help medical professionals lessen a stroke’s damage to the child’s brain. Use the following tool to help you think F.A.S.T.:

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.

Are the words slurred? Can the patient repeat the sentence correctly?

TIME

If the child shows any of these symptoms, time is important. Call 911 or get to the hospital fast. Brain cells are dying.

For more information:

Approximately six in 100,000 children are affected by stroke. Here in the U.S., it is a leading cause of death among children. Nearly 60 percent of childhood strokes occur in boys. Because the causes and symptoms are so different, treating stroke in children requires specialized training, such as what they will receive at the Cook Children's Stroke and Thrombosis Program.

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