Why you should still go to the ED for stroke symptoms during COVID-19


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Apr 17, 2020

With so much attention on the COVID-19 virus, it’s important to remember that other medical emergencies, like strokes, can still occur during the pandemic. In the event of a stroke, time is of the essence.

Common stroke symptoms

While staying alert to coronavirus symptoms and following the recommended safety protocols, you should still watch out for the signs of a stroke. An easy way to remember the most common stroke symptoms is by using the acronym F.A.S.T.

  • F: Face drooping
  • A: Arm weakness
  • S: Speech difficulty
  • T: Time to call 911

Other symptoms of stroke can include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg — especially on one side of the body 
  • Sudden confusion 
  • Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance
  • Lack of coordination
  • Explosive or sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 for immediate transport to the nearest emergency department. Although you may be tempted to drive yourself, the quickest way to get care is by calling 911. Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel know where the closest stroke center is located, and it’s vital that intervention occurs as fast as possible.

Being separated by distance can be especially dangerous for the elderly and others at high risk of experiencing a stroke. If you’re worried about a loved one who lives alone, be sure to check on them regularly through phone and video calls. If you notice any signs of a stroke, call 911 on their behalf.

COVID-19 safety protocols in the ED

Do not be afraid to leave your home for medical emergencies, especially for a stroke. Delaying treatment can put your life at risk. 

Many studies show that the quicker a stroke is identified — and treatment is started — the better the potential for recovery. Some treatments must be given within three to four-and-a-half hours, and others within 24 hours. 

When you arrive at the emergency department, you’ll notice some extra precautions in place for the safety of yourself and others. You can expect to answer a quick series of COVID-19 screening questions and be given a mask in order to protect you and others around you from potential exposure. Everyone entering the emergency department will be expected to follow these same safety measures, and anyone suspected of having COVID-19 will be cared for in a separate area.

Rest assured that our dedicated teams of physicians and nurses are set up at our stroke centers to quickly evaluate patients clinically, radiologically and with the right laboratory testing — all while providing a safe environment to treat you or your loved one. 

Learn more about stroke care and treatment options.

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