Emergency advice

Use FAST to identify a stroke:

  1. Facial weakness.
  2. Arm weakness.
  3. Speech problems.
  4. Time to call 999/112 immediately.

What is a stroke?

A stroke can occur when blood supply to the brain is disrupted and starves the brain of oxygen.

Signs and symptoms

Look for:

  • Facial weakness - uneven smile, droopy mouth or eye
  • Arm weakness - can they raise both arms?
  • Speech problems - can they speak clearly?

What to do

If you suspect someone is having a stroke, use the FAST guide to identify the key signs: 

  1. F – stands for facial weakness.

    • Look at their mouth or eye – they may be droopy, and they can’t smile evenly.
  2. A – arm weakness.

    • Ask them to raise both of their arms. They may only be able to raise one. 
  3. Sspeech problems. They are unable to speak clearly or might not be able to understand what you are saying to them. 

    • Ask them a question, such as ‘What is your name?’  Can they respond appropriately?
  4. T – time to call 999/112 for emergency help and tell them you suspect a stroke after using the FAST guide.

  5. While waiting for help to arrive, keep them comfortable, supported and reassure them. 

    • Do not give them anything to eat or drink because it may be hard for them to swallow.
  6. Keep monitoring their level of response until help arrives.

Related first aid advice

When to call an ambulance

At some point in their life, most people will witness or be involved in an accident or medical emergency. Knowing what to do and when you should call the emergency services can potentially save lives.

How to do CPR on an adult

If an adult is unresponsive and not breathing normally, you need to call 999 or 112 for emergency help and start CPR straight away. Learn what to do.

How to do the primary survey

Use the primary survey to quickly assess the situation and check the casualty for injuries or conditions that could be immediately life threatening. Find out what to do.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support