Published: 2018-01-11T12:36:00Z

If someone is unresponsive and breathing then you need to turn them onto their side and into the recovery position, to keep their airway open so they can still breathe.

Unconsciousness can be defined as 'an interruption in the normal activity of the brain'. Unlike sleep, unconsciousness can disable the body's natural reflexes such as coughing or gagging.

If someone is unconscious and laying on their back, their airway can become blocked by the:

  • tongue touching the back of the throat; or
  • vomit if the casualty is sick.

For this reason, unconscious casualties take priority and need urgent help.

Placing a casualty in the recovery position protects the airway from both of these dangers. The tongue will not fall backwards and vomit will run out of the mouth.

Recovery Position - in steps

Step 1

  • Kneel next to the patient.
  • Remove the casualty's glasses and straighten both legs.
  • Move the arm nearest outwards, elbow bent with palm uppermost.

Step 2

  • Bring the far arm across the chest, and hold the back of that hand against the cheek.

Step 3

  • With your other hand, grasp the far leg just above the knee, and pull it up, keeping the foot on the ground.
  • Keeping the casualty's hand pressed against their cheek, pull on the leg to roll them towards you, onto their side.

Step 4

  • Adjust the upper leg so that the hip and knee are bent at right angles.
  • Make sure that the head is tilted and facing downwards to allow fluids to drain from the mouth.

Call 999 for emergency help and monitor the casualty's breathing.

If you suspect that they might have a spinal injury and need to place them in the recovery position because you cannot keep their airway open, do your best to keep their spine as straight as you possibly can.

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