accessibility & help

First aid for someone who’s
unresponsive and not breathing

Watch the video, in which Marco is treated when found unresponsive and not breathing.

Use the information below the video to remind yourself how to help someone who is unresponsive and not breathing.


Check breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.

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When a person is unresponsive their muscles relax and their tongue can block their airway so they can no longer breathe. Tilting their head back opens the airway by pulling the tongue forward. Looking at their chest to see if it’s moving, and feeling for breaths on your cheek, will help you tell if they’re breathing or not.


Call 999 as soon as possible, or get someone else to do it.


Push firmly downwards in the middle of the chest and then release.

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These are called chest compressions. This keeps blood pumping around their body and helps keep the vital organs, including the brain, alive. (Note: many people call this  CPR, which stands for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.)


Push at a regular rate until help arrives.

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Send us your stories

We love to hear from people who have stepped forward to help in a first aid emergency. If you have a first aid story that you'd be happy to share, please email including your name, telephone number and some brief details about what happened. The British Red Cross will only use your information to contact you about your first aid story.

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Baby and child first aid

Young woman checks for breathing on a baby

Learn online what you should do in a range of baby and children first aid emergencies.