Doctor examining elderly woman's hands

What to Do When Someone Is Having a Stroke: Do’s and Don’ts

When someone suffers a stroke, time is essential. There is very limited time to restore blood flow to the brain before the injury is irreversible. Witnessing your loved one having a stroke can be a scary experience. If you don’t know a lot about strokes, you may not know how to respond.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year over 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke, which is about one every 40 seconds. Yet a survey by the CDC showed that only 38% of people could spot the key signs of a stroke and knew when to call 911.

Because a stroke can be life-threatening and lead to permanent damage, it’s important to act fast. By knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke, you can respond quickly and perhaps save a life.

Signs of a Stroke

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Acting F.A.S.T. Is Key for Stroke

American Stroke Association came up with F.A.S.T – a quick and easy way to identity some of the most common stroke warning signs. If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do the following simple test:

Face: Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?

Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?

Time: If you see any of these signs, call 911 right away.

According to Healthline, if you suspect a loved one is having a stroke, here’s what you should and shouldn’t do during this critical time:


Call 911. If someone is experiencing any of the symptoms above, call 911. Don’t drive them to the hospital yourself. An ambulance can get to you and get the person to a hospital faster. Paramedics are equipped to handle different types of emergency situations and can offer life-saving assistance on the way to the hospital, which can potentially reduce the damaging effects of the stroke.

Keep track of symptoms. Keep note of symptoms, including when these symptoms began. If the person has known medical conditions, be prepared to share that information with the medical staff.

Stay alert and calm. Encourage the person to lie down on their side with their head elevated. This position promotes blood flow to the brain. However, do not move the person if they’ve fallen. To keep them comfortable, loosen tight clothing. If the person is conscious, reassure them help is on the way. If the person is unconscious, check their breathing and pulse. If a pulse is not detected, start performing CPR.


Do not give any medication. Don’t give someone aspirin while they’re having a stroke, even though it is a blood thinner. A blood clot is only one probable cause of a stroke. A stroke can also be caused by a burst blood vessel in the brain. Since you don’t know which type of stroke the person is having, don’t provide any medication.

Do not give the person anything to eat or drink. Refrain from giving food or water to someone having a stroke. A stroke can cause muscle weakness throughout the body and, in some cases, paralysis, making it more likely they could choke on food or water.

Do not hesitate to call 911. Time is critical during a stroke; every second matters. Even if you’re unsure if it’s a stroke, call 911. It’s better to take action, than none at all.

How is it treated?

A loved one who has suffered from a stroke may receive emergency care, treatment to prevent another one from occurring, rehabilitation to help them relearn the skills lost because of the stroke, or all the above. Our experienced, integrated team at Northland Rehabilitation & Health Care Center understands the importance of care from recovering from a stroke. We keep you at the center of the decision process and work with you, your family, and your physician to align a plan of care to address your specific condition. If someone in your life needs a safe and effective way to recover from a stroke, we are here as a trusted source for care and recovery. Don’t hesitate, contact us today.