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Pediatric Stroke - Being Aware Of Your Child’s Symptoms

Agnus Smith | Published: August 14, 2018

Stuffed dog wearing stethoscope

Many people do not realize that a stroke can happen to anyone, not just the elderly. Babies, toddlers, and teenagers can also suffer from a stroke, and when that happens it is often referred to as a pediatric stroke.

A pediatric stroke most often occurs during the first year of a child’s life and is considered a top ten cause of death among children. Here’s what you need to know.

Can Your Infant Or Child Have A Stroke?

There are common risks factors that are associated with a pediatric stroke. Although a stroke in children is often overlooked, it is important to these factors. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Congenital heart defects
  • Immune disorders
  • Abnormal blood clotting
  • Sickle-cell disease
  • Diseases of the arteries
  • Maternal history of infertility
  • Head or neck trauma
  • Pregnancy-related high blood pressure in the mother
  • Maternal infection in the fluid surrounding an unborn baby
  • Premature rupture of the membrane during pregnancy

Statistically Speaking, Is It Common?

Statistically speaking, a stroke in children is not considered common. About 1 in 4,000 children suffer from a pediatric stroke. Statistically, the risk of stroke from birth until the age of 18 is about 11 in 100,000 children every year. Stroke is most likely to occur in African Americans and male youths. Children who suffer from one stroke have a 15%-18% chance of having an additional stroke.

Recognizing The Symptoms

Infant stroke symptoms are often overlooked. However, you can follow the warning signs of FAST used in adults to look for symptoms in your child. Infant stroke symptoms include:

  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Seizures
  • Using only one side of the body

The symptoms of a stroke in children and teens consist of:

  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination and balance

Other infant stroke symptoms can include things like speech issues, numbness in the face, or visual issues.

Possible Causes For A Pediatric Stroke

There are multiple causes of stroke in adolescents and children. Let’s take a look at the two types of strokes that affect children.

Ischemic Stroke: One of the most common causes of an ischemic stroke in children is a blot clot. The blood clot travels from the heart to the brain thus resulting in a stroke. Typically, this is caused by congenital heart problems, infections, and other valve issues. Typically, this can be treated with antibiotics or surgery. Sickle cell disease is another common cause of ischemic stroke.

With sickle cell disease, the blood cells lack the ability to carry oxygen to the child’s brain. The blood vessels that lead to the brain have likely closed or narrowed thus resulting in a stroke. Sickle cell disease can be treated with blood transfusions.

Hemorrhagic Stroke: One of the most common causes of a hemorrhagic stroke is a busted, broken or ruptured blood vessel in the brain. This ruptured blood vessel will pool in the brain and cause a blood clot. When this blood clot forms, oxygen cannot be carried throughout the body, and therefore oxygen is deprived.

Way To Prevent Strokes In Children

There are many things that can be done to prevent and reduce the likelihood of a stroke.

  • Regular exercise
  • A balanced diet
  • Repeat neuroimaging for conditions such as sickle cell
  • Anticoagulation therapy for cardiac conditions
  • Antithrombotic therapy for children with AIS

You can find additional preventative techniques by following this link to the Child Neurology Foundation. It is important to also bring attention to stroke awareness. Stroke awareness can reduce and prevent strokes in children. Stroke awareness can also help illuminate the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke.

Treatment And Recovery - What To Do

Typically children recover better than adults in terms of stroke recovery. While adults are treated with anti-blood clotting medications, this treatment is controversial in children.

At the moment, treatment for strokes in adolescents include:

  • Supportive care for maintaining proper blood sugar level, hydration, and normal body temperature.
  • Keeping high blood pressure in check.
  • EEG monitoring to detect and treat seizures.
  • Blood transfusions for those who suffer from sickle cell disease.
  • Treatment to manage and reduce intracranial pressure.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of a stroke. It is vital for the proper treatment that you are familiar with the conditions associated with stroke, and it is essential to the future of stroke prevention that we bring stroke awareness to all people.