Call 9-1-1 immediately if any of the following major stroke warning signs occur:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness that occurs in the face, arm or leg, particularly on one side of the body.
  • Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or difficulty understanding. May have either slurred speech or confused speech.
  • Sudden problems with walking, severe dizziness; or loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache, for no reason.
  • Difficulty swallowing.

A stroke is a medical emergency

It is important to realize that stroke warning symptoms are the signs of an emergency. For every minute that brain cells are deprived of oxygen during a stroke, 1.9 billion brain cells die. Also, the chances for survival and recovery are much better when the right treatment begins within the first few hours of noticing stroke symptoms. Remember to note the times that the symptoms began or the last time that person was seen acting normally.

How to help a stroke victim

While you are waiting for an emergency vehicle to arrive, the person with the stroke symptoms should lie down. Watch the person suspected of having a stroke and lift the chin to open the airway. Check for breathing and pulse. If necessary, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

If the person is breathing but unconscious, roll him or her onto his or her side. (Do not move the person if you suspect a head, neck, or back injury.)

If the person is conscious, try to reassure and comfort him or her. Loosen constricting clothing or jewelry. If the person is having difficulty swallowing, try to turn him or her onto the side. Do not give the person anything to eat or drink.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/11/2018.


  • National Stroke Association. Warning Signs of Stroke ( Accessed 11/18/2021.
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke. NINDS Stroke Information Page ( Accessed 11/18/2021.
  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Consumer Education: Know the Facts About Stroke ( Accessed 11/18/2021.

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