First Aid Techniques for Stroke: Proper On-Site Response to Reduce Complications

Stroke is a potentially life-threatening cerebrovascular disorder with various dangerous complications. Timely recognition and first aid measures are crucial to reduce the risk of complications, protect lives, and enhance recovery for patients. Let’s explore more about stroke and the recommended techniques for proper on-site first aid as advocated by healthcare organizations.

Early recognition for effective first aid

Before administering any first aid measures, it is important to assess the overall condition of the patient to determine appropriate interventions. The FAST and BE FAST rules are two commonly employed guidelines for recognizing stroke symptoms by major healthcare organizations.

FAST rule:

  • F (Face): Facial asymmetry, facial drooping, facial twitching, vision impairment.
  • A (Arm): Weakness or inability to move limbs, difficulty gripping or holding objects.
  • S (Speech): Slurred speech, difficulty speaking or understanding words.
  • T (Time): Stroke symptoms appear and progress rapidly.

BE FAST rule:

In addition to the FAST rule, the BE FAST rule provides a more comprehensive set of stroke indicators. It includes the following additional signs:

  • B (Balance): Sudden loss of balance, severe headache, dizziness, impaired coordination.
  • E (Eyesight): Rapid loss of vision, blurred vision in one or both eyes.

When someone experiences these stroke symptoms (which may vary in severity, sometimes with only 3-5 symptoms present), it is crucial to promptly call emergency medical services and initiate immediate on-site first aid to make use of the golden hour and minimize potential complications.

Stroke and proper medical first aid techniques

First and foremost, when identifying a stroke patient, it is crucial to promptly call for an ambulance to transport the individual to a medical facility to take advantage of the critical “golden six hours.” Afterward, the patient should be observed and appropriate recommended first aid procedures should be performed.

The first aid for stroke patients should adhere to specific principles and be carried out in the following sequence:

First aid principles

The first aider needs to observe the breathing, bleeding, and check the pulse.

The first aider needs to observe the breathing, bleeding, and check the pulse.

Stroke organizations emphasize that to prevent complications and ensure survival, patients with a cerebrovascular accident should receive first aid according to the ABC principle (Airway, Breathing, Circulation) before being taken to the hospital.


A (Airway):

  • Observe the patient’s breathing status, and if there are signs of respiratory arrest, perform artificial respiration to stimulate breathing and circulation.
  • Since a stroke patient can experience brain death after only four minutes of respiratory arrest, leading to fatality.
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B (Blood):

  • Check the entire body for any signs of bleeding (especially in cases of imbalance or falls).
  • If the patient is bleeding, apply immediate pressure to stop the bleeding and prevent excessive blood loss.

C (Circulation):

  • Examine major blood vessels in the body (arteries, capillaries, veins in the wrist, neck area, etc.).
  • If there is no pulse, perform chest compressions and provide immediate medical care.

Performing first aid

After observation, implement the necessary measures to assist a stroke patient following the ABC principle. Depending on the patient’s condition, the first aider continues to apply required procedures while closely monitoring the patient.

Placing the patient in a tilted position is highly beneficial in stroke management.

Placing the patient in a tilted position is highly beneficial in stroke management.

Specifically, as follows:

  • Ensure patient is in a well-ventilated area: Gently support the patient, avoiding falls that could cause further injuries and hinder recovery. Then, use a shading device to keep the patient cool (for outdoor stroke cases) and elevate the head by 20-30°.
  • Remove any objects that may obstruct the airway: Dentures, bras, buttons…
  • Adjust the patient’s position to a 45° angle when vomiting: After adjusting the position, clear any vomit or mucus from the throat to prevent suffocation. If the patient is unconscious or semi-conscious but breathing normally and not vomiting, they can be left in a supine position or turned onto their side.
  • Check the heartbeat and pulse: For stroke patients who have fallen into a coma, assess the heartbeat and pulse. If the heart has stopped, perform CPR immediately.
  • Gather medical history information: If the patient is still conscious, try to communicate and obtain information such as their name, emergency contact number, underlying medical conditions, blood type, medication allergies, height, weight, etc., to provide to the medical personnel upon the arrival of the emergency vehicle.

Note: The tilted position is always recommended in the emergency resuscitation of stroke patients as it protects the airway and minimizes complications. In unconscious patients, supine position may cause the tongue to block the airway, while vomiting in the supine position can obstruct breathing by inhaling vomit.

Mistakes in First Aid for Stroke Patients

Providing timely first aid to stroke patients within the first 3-6 hours is crucial. Despite the saying “saving lives is like fighting fires,” acting impulsively and applying incorrect first aid measures can inadvertently worsen the patient’s condition.

Properly administering first aid to a stroke patient is crucial to avoid causing further harm.

Properly administering first aid to a stroke patient is crucial to avoid causing further harm.

Therefore, when encountering a stroke patient and applying any form of first aid, please take note of the following:

  • DO NOT give the patient any water, medication, or food without guidance from a doctor. At this stage, the patient’s throat may be paralyzed, and introducing food or liquids can obstruct the airway.
  • Limit crowded gatherings around the patient to avoid hindering respiration. Standing at a distance will help promote air circulation, making it easier for the patient to breathe.
  • DO NOT move the patient to another location to prevent further severe complications. It is best to keep the patient in the most comfortable position and ensure their clothing is loose.
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First aid is an immediate measure that helps limit complications and protects the life of a stroke patient. Through this article, it is hoped that readers have gained the most basic information about the condition of stroke and safe first aid techniques. In the case of encountering a patient requiring assistance due to a stroke-related vascular event, handle the situation calmly, avoiding impulsive actions that could exacerbate the stroke symptoms.

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