Should I give aspirin to someone having a stroke?
Aspirin is a drug often mentioned in the first aid treatment for a heart attack. Giving Aspirin can save someone’s life if they are having a heart attack as it works to break down clots in the blood vessels supplying the heart.
So what about strokes? Should you give aspirin to someone having a stroke?
The simple answer is – no! Aspirin should not be given initially to a patient suspected of having a stroke.
This is because there are two forms of stroke:
1. Ischemic stroke: this is similar to a heart attack and occurs when a clot blocks an artery in the brain causing ischemia and infarction of brain tissue (death of cells due to lack of oxygen)
2. Hemorrhagic stroke: this is rarer, but occurs due to a burst blood vessel in the brain resulting in bleeding
Aspirin works by making the blood less ‘sticky’. It is great for breaking down clots, however could worsen any bleeding into the brain.
When someone has a stroke you don’t know which type of stroke they are having! There is no way of knowing if the stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic. Therefore we don’t know if aspirin will help or cause harm.
The only way to find out the type of stroke is a brain scan performed in hospital. Therefore the best first aid treatment for someone with a suspected stroke is to call for emergency medical help as soon as possible.
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