Catherine McClung Smith, MD
Palmetto Health-USC Neurosurgery
When we think of strokes, we usually think that is something older adults have to worry about. But the truth is anyone can have a stroke at any age. Even babies can have strokes.
According to Catherine McClung Smith, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital–Midlands, “Strokes are not common in children, but when they do happen they often are not treated in time because parents don’t think about it even being a possibility.”
Stroke is the sixth leading cause of death among people under 18 years of age. Among this young demographic, the risk is greatest in babies, right before or after birth and through their first year.
Some facts to know about stroke in children:
- Strokes occur in about 1 in 4,000 live births.
- About 12 in 100,000 children under age 18 have a stroke.
- Boys and African-American children are at higher risk.
- If caught in time, young children generally recover from stroke faster and with better results than adults because their brains are still growing.
The most common causes of strokes in adults tend to be high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, but these conditions are rare in children. Dr. McClung Smith explains: “Risk factors in children are more commonly congenital heart defects, sickle-cell disease and immune disorders. In unborn babies, risk factors can stem from high blood pressure in the mother, a premature rupture in the membrane or infection in the fluid surrounding the unborn child.”
It’s important to know the signs of a stroke. According to Dr. McClung Smith, “young children may not be able to express what is happening to them, and babies certainly cannot.”
Be on the lookout for:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Severe headache
- Lack of mobility in one side of the body
If you detect any of these signs or a combination of them, it’s best not to take any chances – call 9-1-1. With stroke, every minute counts. The sooner your child gets to the nearest emergency room, the better their chances will be for recovery.
Prisma Health Stroke Center
Time is critical when it comes to a stroke. Our team is on-site 24/7, with a multidisciplinary program of care and leading-edge approach for stroke patients.