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Diseases & Conditions

Signs & Symptoms of Stroke - Calling 911

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 slurred speech or confused speech.
  • Sudden problems with walking, dizziness; a loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache, the cause of which is unknown
  • Difficulty swallowing

Getting to the hospital for appropriate treatment is best when using the 911 system.

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, brain damage increases. Also, the chances for survival and recovery are much better when the right treatment begins within the first few hours of noticing stroke symptoms.

How to help a stroke victim

While you are waiting for an emergency vehicle to arrive, you (or 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.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 6/26/2014...#13399