Stroke in Children

Stroke has no age limits. It can happen to teenagers, children, even infants.
happy baby in a high chair

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs. So it and brain cells die.

While most have heard of stroke in adults, strokes can happen at any age. Pediatric strokes can happen in infants, children, teens and even before birth. The two age ranges when referring to pediatric stroke are perinatal and childhood.

Perinatal stroke can happen in the last few months of pregnancy to 1 month old.

Risk factors that could lead to perinatal stroke include:

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Placenta disorders
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Infections (e.g., meningitis)

Childhood stroke can happen between 1 month old to 18 years.

Risk factors for children include:

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Diseases affecting the brain’s arteries
  • Infections affecting the brain or other organs
  • Head trauma
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Autoimmune disorders

What are the warning signs for pediatric stroke?

Warning signs are often missed in children because there is a lack of awareness that strokes can happen in this age group. Hover—or click if you’re on your mobile—on the F.A.S.T. tiles.
Letter F
[F = FACE DROOPING] Does one side of the face droop, or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?
letter A
[A = ARM WEAKNESS] Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
letter S
[S = SPEECH] Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue."
Letter t
[T = TIME TO CALL 911] If you have any of these symptoms or see someone else having them, call 911 immediately!

If your child has one or more of these signs, don’t delay — call 911 immediately.

Warning signs in children can include:

  • Severe sudden headache, especially with vomiting and sleepiness
  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body (face, arm and/or leg)
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding others
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • New onset of seizures, usually on one side of the body

Prompt action and medical treatment can maximize outcomes. Remember that stroke is a potential risk for everyone.

Pediatric Stroke Causes

young girl playing on the carpet

Many unanswered questions remain about pediatric stroke. Critical step is to raise awareness that stroke can happen at any age.

Effects of Stroke in Children

child with doctor

A stroke normally affects one side of the brain. Although every stroke is unique, strokes tend to affect survivors in common ways.

Recovery and Treatment for Pediatric Stroke

Child in swimming class with adult

Each child recovers differently from stroke. Early diagnosis can lead to earlier treatment when brain plasticity may be greatest.

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited blood disorder. Children with SCD are at a higher risk for stroke.
young girl playing on the carpet

Join the Support Network

Our free, online support system for parents and caregivers of children living with pediatric stroke.
2022 Stroke Hero Group Award Winners: IAPS

Stroke Hero Awards

Honoring survivors, caregivers and groups that strive to overcome stroke.