A stroke can happen at any time without warning. You might notice that someone is suddenly unable to walk or speak clearly, or that they seem to be confused about where they are. A stroke can be terrifying to an onlooker, and people don’t always know how to respond to it. Since strokes can be life-threatening, you need to know what to do and what not to do when you see one.

What To Do

The first thing you should do when you believe someone is having a stroke is to call an ambulance. You might think you can drive them to a hospital yourself, but you’re always better off calling 911 instead. When you do, make it clear that the person is having a stroke so the paramedics will be better prepared to help when they arrive.

While you wait for an ambulance to arrive, continue talking to the stroke victim and gather as much information as you can while they are still able to communicate. Keep track of the symptoms, so you know what to tell the paramedics and the doctors at the hospital. It will also help to have the victim lie down on their side with their head elevated. This will help promote the flow of blood to the brain.

If the victim has lost consciousness, you may need to perform CPR. If you do not know how to do this, speak to the dispatcher when you call 911. They will tell you what to do.

Finally, remain calm. That may be easier said than done, but you need to be calm and rational as you describe the incident to paramedics and doctors.

What Not to Do

If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, don’t allow them to drive to the hospital, and do not give them any medication. You might think that the blood-thinning effects of Aspirin would help a stroke victim, but not all strokes are caused by blood clots. Some are caused by a blood vessel that burst in the brain, which will only get worse with Aspirin.

Finally, do not allow a stroke victim to have any food or water until doctors decide it’s safe. Strokes can cause people to have difficulty swallowing, which can lead to them choking when they try to eat anything.

Strokes are often life-threatening, so it is crucial that you remain calm and take action as soon as you suspect one. Keep these tips in mind, and remember that the sooner you can help, the more likely the patient has the chance to recover.