- Pediatric stroke affects 25 in 100,000 newborns and 12 in 100,000 children under 18 years of age.
- Stroke is the sixth leading cause of death in children.
- Recognition of stroke is often delayed or even missed in most children
- Early recognition and treatment during the first hours and days after a stroke is critical in optimizing long-term functional outcomes and minimizing recurrence risk
- Many children with stroke syndromes are misdiagnosed with more common conditions that mimic stroke, such as migraines, epilepsy or viral illnesses
- When stroke affects a newborn infant, symptoms may not appear until 4 to 6 months of age in the form of decreased movement or weakness of one side of the body.
- Newborns, especially full-term infants
- Older children with sickle cell anemia, congenital heart defects, immune disorders or problems with blood clotting
- Previously healthy children who are found to have hidden disorders such as narrow blood vessels or a tendency to form blood clots easily.
* In Joshua’s case the stroke followed a balloon dilation during catheter procedure
- Weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body
- Trouble walking due to weakness or trouble moving one side of the body, or due to loss of coordination
- Problems speaking or understanding language, including slurred speech, trouble trying to speak, inability to speak at all, or difficulty in understanding simple directions
- Severe headache especially with vomiting and sleepiness
- Trouble seeing clearly in one or both eyes
- Severe dizziness or loss of coordination that may lead to losing balance or falling
- New appearance of seizures, especially if affecting one side of the body and followed by paralysis on the side of the seizure activity
- Combination of progressively worsening non-stop headache, drowsiness and repetitive vomiting, lasting days without relief
- Complaint of sudden onset of the “worst headache of my life”
Newborns and infants
- Extreme sleepiness
- A tendency to use only one side of their body
What to do if a child experiences these symptoms:
- Dial 911 or go to your nearest hospital Emergency Department.
- Have your child lie flat.
- Do not give your child anything to eat or drink.
Knowing these facts can save your child’s life. We didn’t know them, but Josh started to have seizures and because it was so soon after his heart procedure we took him straight to the ER where he was given an MRI and a stroke was discovered. Many parents do not get this benefit of knowing when or why the stroke occurred. Please, share this with parents you know. Learn the symptoms so that you will know if this happens to a child you know and love.
A stroke can leave a devastating path of destruction in it’s wake. If your child has been diagnosed with a stroke seek immediate help from a social worker at the hospital to find out your options for therapy. Speech, Occupational, and Physio will all likely be necessary. Do not wait for someone to suggest it to you.
God bless you on your journey.