A child has a stroke when a part of the brain can’t get the oxygen and blood that it needs. Without blood supply, brain tissue cannot survive. For this reason, quick response is needed.
What are some common causes?
A common cause is that a blood clot forms in the heart and travels to the brain. Trauma to the head and neck can also be a cause.
Strokes in children are rare.
Strokes occur in 1 out of 4,000 births or 11 out of 100,000 children under 18 years old.
What does a stroke look like in a child?
If a child has had a stroke, he may be at a greater risk for having another stroke. A quick response to stroke can help to prevent problems. If your child has any of the signs listed below, call 911 right away.
- Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body or face.
- Sudden falling or loss of balance that is new for your child.
- Sudden change in speech or understanding speech that is new for your child
- Sudden headache, crying with complaints of head pain.
The signs of a stroke in a child can be hard to pick out. Talk to your doctor or nurse about your concerns.
What are the risks of stroke for children?
Many strokes in children are from unknown causes, but there are some body changes that put some children at greater risk of stroke. Most children who have a stroke have more than one risk factor. If your child has sickle cell anemia, lung problems, infections, heart disease, problems with blood clotting, or known problems with how their vessels are formed, he or she has an increased risk of a stroke.
My child had a stroke. What now?
What to expect largely depends on the cause of the stroke, the size of the damage, and the type of stroke. Many children who survive strokes may develop:
- Problems with sensation
- Problems of movement
- Problems swallowing
Your child may develop long-term effects like:
- Trouble with mood changes
- Trouble with language and learning
After a stroke, your child’s needs may change as he grows. Getting help early will be very important in helping your child’s progress. Your child’s doctor can tell you how often he will need to be seen. You will need a plan to make certain your child takes any pills that have been prescribed. Your child will need help from a speech, physical, or occupational therapist.
It is a comfort to many parents to know that children can often regain much of their normal function.
A diagnosis of a stroke is scary.
Pediatric strokes can be scary for the whole family. Be sure to ask your doctor about any questions you or your child may have about your therapy and treatments. Your health care team is there to help.
For further support
American Heart Association and American Stroke Association websites: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/ and search “pediatric stroke”
Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association, CHASA: http://www.chasa.org/
Kids Have Strokes: http://www.kidshavestrokes.org/
Pediatric Stroke Network: http://www.pediatricstrokenetwork.com/
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 01/12/2011
Copyright © 01/11/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7136
Print Health Fact For You