Stroke can happen to anyone, of any age, at any time. It's vital to know how to spot the signs of a stroke in yourself or someone else.

What to do if someone is having a stroke

Stroke is a medical emergency. If you experience any of the symptoms below, you should call 999.

How to identify a stroke

The FAST acronym (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) is a test to quickly identify if someone is having a stroke.

  • Face weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
  • Arm weakness: Can the person raise both arms?
  • Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time to call 999: if you see any of these signs.

Acting FAST will give the person having a stroke the best chance of survival and recovery. Always call 999 straight away.

Ambulance paramedics are trained in stroke and will ensure the person receives emergency medical care and specialist treatment.

Other symptoms of a stroke

The FAST test helps spot the three most common symptoms of stroke. But there are other signs that you should always take seriously. These include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including legs, hands or feet.
  • Difficulty finding words or speaking in clear sentences.
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden memory loss or confusion, and dizziness or a sudden fall.
  • A sudden, severe headache.

If you spot any of these signs of a stroke, don't wait. Call 999 straight away.

How long do symptoms last?

Symptoms vary between different people but often come on suddenly.

If the symptoms only last a short amount of time, it could be a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke. It is still vital to call 999 and get urgent medical attention. A TIA is a medical emergency and a warning that you are at risk of having a stroke. See our TIA pages for more information.

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