Childhood stroke guidelines guard against "devastating illness"

Leila (left) and Charlotte.

Leila (left) and Charlotte.

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The family of a Colne girl who was left fighting for her life after suffering a brain haemorrhage and stroke is urging parents and young people in Lancashire to learn about the signs of childhood stroke as a new guideline for parents launches today.

In 2012, Charlotte Neve - then seven years old - slipped in and out of two comas after having multiple strokes meaning that when she came round was in a ‘locked-in’ state, unable to speak, move, or blink.

Doctors initially said her chances of recovery were bleak, but she has defied expectations regaining her movement and speech, with her mother, Leila Neve, saying: “So few people realise that children can have strokes, but it doesn’t only happen to old people, it can happen at any age even to babies.

"Everyone needs to be aware of the signs of stroke in children because the faster stroke is treated the better the chance of making a good recovery," Leila added. "Since Charlotte’s strokes, we’ve also experienced a real lack of understanding about childhood strokes which has resulted in me home schooling Charlotte.”

The Guideline, produced by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and the Stroke Association, covers diagnosis and rehabilitation and includes signs for spotting strokes in children and is as follows:

- Most children experiencing a stroke will have symptoms recognised by the FAST test: Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech problems, Time to call 999

- Some children and young people may complain of a headache and others may have seizures (fits) at the time of the stroke. New and sudden onset of vertigo, dizziness, neck pain or neck stiffness are also sometimes signs that a child or young person is having or has had a stroke.

- Nausea/vomiting, fever or loss of consciousness can also be signs of a stroke in children, so do not discount these.

Dr Vijeya Ganesan, a paediatric neurologist and spokesperson for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “Although much less common than in adults, stroke is a devastating childhood illness, leaving permanent effects on most affected children. Early recognition is important to direct children towards rapid diagnosis and treatment.

"Many children with symptoms or signs that suggest stroke may have other serious neurological disorders and could also benefit from the changes in approach recommended by the guideline," Dr Ganesan continued. "The guidelines also provide comprehensive information on how to best manage the long term needs of children, particularly rehabilitation.”

Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association, added: “Childhood stroke is often extremely frightening and stressful for children and their families. Far too few people realise that a child can have a stroke, which means diagnosis and treatment can take longer than for older patients. Whatever age you are, when stroke strikes, quick diagnosis is vital.”

To find out more and download the guidelines visit www.rcpch.ac.uk/stroke-guideline.