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Strokes: Not Just for Older Adults - 05/05/2015

Strokes: Not Just for Older Adults

Release Date: May 5, 2015
Ryan Felling

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. While this devastating neurologic disorder occurs mainly in older adults, children can suffer strokes too, say Johns Hopkins Children's Center neurologists.

Ryan Felling, a pediatric stroke specialist at Johns Hopkins, says that stroke remains a relatively rare occurrence in children and is often not on parents' and pediatricians' radars.

"More than 3,000 children have strokes every year in the United States alone, and many of them end up with permanent or long-lasting disability," Felling says. "Prompt recognition and treatment can help to protect the brain and reduce the risk for permanent injury."

Timely recognition and treatment of adult strokes has improved in leaps and bounds, but recognition continues to lag behind in children, Felling adds.

It is critical for parents, teachers, coaches and caregivers to spot the following signs:

  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Slurred speech or absence of speech
  • Mental confusion
  • Sudden drooping of face on one side
  • Sudden severe headache, followed by confusion
  • Seizures affecting one side of the body, followed by weakness in the affected side
  • Unexplained change in the level of alertness, with weakness in one side of the body

Most pediatric strokes stem from congenital malformations of the heart or blood vessels, or from inherited blood-clotting disorders, but traumatic injuries to the arteries in the neck or spine can also cause a stroke in kids, Felling says. Prompt recognition of stroke can help to identify these conditions and reduce the risk of a future stroke.