Unconscious and breathing: the recovery position

If a casualty is unconscious but breathing normally then you should place them into the recovery position in order to protect their airway.

The recovery position involves rolling the casualty onto their side with their head tilted back. By doing this, the tongue is kept clear of the airway and any vomit is able to drain and not obstruct the casualty's airway.

The photo below demonstrates an example of the recovery position.

Step by step guide

1. Kneel by the casualty’s waist
2. Place the hand closest to you at a right angle (so it looks like the casualty is 'waving')
3. Grasp the hand furthest to you, place the back of their hand against their cheek closest to you
4. Lift the leg furthest away from you at the knee and place their foot on the floor
5. Using their knee as a lever, pull the person onto their side
6. Ensure their head is still tilted back and they are on their side
Once the casualty is in the recovery position you should call for an ambulance if this hasn't already been done. In addition remember to recheck the casualty's breathing at regular intervals until further medical help arrives. 

What about injuries?

At this stage, do not worry too much about the casualty's injuries. Your main priority is to protect the airway and save the casualty's life.

Once the person has been placed in the recovery position you can start assessing and treating any other injuries which you've found.

Video: The recovery position

Take a look at the following video which demonstrates placing a casualty the recovery position.



John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid & CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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