Kids can have strokes too, AHA warns

Most parents and even physicians don't usually consider stroke when it comes to young children, even babies. But the American Heart and American Stroke associations say it's more common than most people realize. In fact, it strikes about 3,200 youngsters each year. Now, there are new guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of stroke in children.

Stroke is a medical emergency we tend to equate with adults. But 10-year-old Sideria Hendricks is proof strokes can also happen in children. At the age of 5, she had her first stroke. A year later, she had another one. Her mother never suspected anything serious because the symptoms were subtle. Her usually energetic daughter was simply acting odd.

"Not walking, not talking not playing you know she wasn't being herself she was not active, so I said this is kinda odd. I said, 'Maybe she is coming down with something," said Vonetta Wright, mom.

Loyola neurologist Jose Biller, who helped shaped the new childhood stroke guidelines says stroke in children is not as rare as once thought. The guidelines are designed to raise awareness about the condition in children and include symptoms and ways to prevent additional strokes.

"They are often misdiagnosed because of perception the wrong perception. Well, it would be highly unlikely that someone of this age will have a stroke," said Biller, neurologist, Loyola Univ. Med. Ctr.

One of the problems is symptoms of stroke differ between children and adults. In young babies, seizures may be a clue. In other children, the sign may be sudden lethargic behavior or a severe headache.

The most common risk factors for childhood stroke are sickle cell disease and heart problems. But other associated conditions include head trauma, dehydration, autoimmune disorders and infection.

"There is a great need for further knowledge and further education," said Biller.

Sideria has sickle cell. But her family never thought to watch out for stroke. She now gets blood transfusions every three weeks and seems to be doing OK.

"It can happen to anyone I mean it doesn't matter how old you are," said Wright. "I never would have thought it would happen to her."

For more information on stroke in children and adults

Loyola University Medical Center
Jose Biller, MD, FAAN, FACP, FAHA
Neurological Surgery
Department Chairman, Neurology
Medical Director, Cerebrovascular Program
(888) LUHS-888.

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