World Stroke Day is an annual reminder to think about those affected by stroke. It remains the 3rd most common cause of death in the UK, but is often overlooked as it is perceived to be a disease that affects only the elderly. This is not so, stroke can affect anyone of any age, including children.
Many of us will have friends or relatives who have had strokes but how many of us would be able to recognise the symptoms or know what to do about it?
If you would like more information, please see our “What is a stroke?” faq page.
World Stroke Day is always on 29th October
Christmas is nearly upon us again; that annual consumer festival of last minute frenzied shopping, trying to find a gift for aged grandparents and small toddlers, standing in huge queues in supermarkets, worrying about whether you have enough food and drink in the house, wrestling with stuffing and turkeys etc.
I sound very cynical, but really I love Christmas: the decorations, the smell of pine trees, mulled wine and cinnamon. There is something delightful about seeing the excitement on small children’s faces as they count down the sleeps till Father Christmas arrives.
You might therefore be surprised to learn that amongst all the jollity and goodwill, Christmas heralds a wealth of opportunities to injure oneself in the comfort of your own home.
Each year hundreds of people are injured over the festive season and the home appears to be one of the most dangerous places to be.
Injuries include those caused by:
Kitchens – cuts from carving the turkey, burns from hot fat, poisoning from undercooked food and buffets that have been left out all day
Choking – at least one person a year chokes on their turkey!
Slips, trips and falls as we clamber over piles of toys etc
Stairs – from clutter left on them, and falling down them in new slippers or after too much alcohol
Decorations – fairy lights can cause house fires – 47 house fires were caused last year by decorations
Presents – cuts to hands and fingers are common as people take knives and scissors to open plastic packaging
Alcohol – drink driving, falls,drinking to excess.
Sometimes it seems that the stress of trying to achieve the “Perfect Christmas” ensures that by the time the day comes around we are all exhausted with fraying tempers. When tiredness, alcohol and the strains of having extra guests get on top of us, accidents are more likely to occur.
Your Local A&E
The NHS and A&E units across the country are creaking at the seams and at this time of year units are particularly busy dealing with the illnesses and accidents that winter brings, the slips, trips and falls caused by ice and the usual rounds of ‘flu and winter vomiting.
Not all injuries need to be seen in A&E, so unless you really need it, give your local A&E a miss this Christmas. Walk in centres and GP surgeries can deal with many things and 999/112 should only be reserved for true Emergencies such as choking, heart attacks, strokes and broken bones.
Many minor injuries can be dealt with by applying a good dose of common sense and basic first aid. Please think before you dial 999, “is this really an emergency or can I deal with it, or would a walk in centre be better?”
Make sure you have adequate supplies of any of your usual medications as a walk in centres will not be able to issue repeat prescriptions. Stock up on basic over the counter remedies to deal with minor aches and pains etc.
Above all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Stroke is the 3rd biggest killer in the UK yet many people still don’t know how to recognise the symptoms of stroke or how to help. Over 150 000 people are affected by stroke each year and up to a quarter of these occur in those under the age of 65.
So what is a stroke? A good way to think about it, is as a “brain attack”. During such an attack blood flow to the brain is disturbed . This leads to part of the brain tissue being starved of oxygen and causing those areas of the brain to die resulting in loss of function in those areas. It is usually caused by a clot or a bleed in the blood vessels in the brain which cause a blockage and prevent blood flow through the vessels.
Strokes can occur to anyone, of any age, at any time and are very definitely a medical emergency that needs to be treated either to prevent death or to minimise the long term effects of stroke injury.
Over the last few years, the Stroke Association has successfully launched the FAST campaign that is doing very well at highlighting the main symptoms of stroke.
The FAST acronym stands for
These are only a few of the symptoms but are the main ones to look out for.
From a first aid point of view, call 999, and explain the situation to the call handler. Then, whilst waiting for the ambulance service to arrive, stay with the person, keep your patient warm and comfortable and provide reassurance that help is coming.
If the patient becomes unconscious, please put them in the recovery position.
For more information contact the Stroke Association on www.stroke.org.uk.