Learn first aid for someone who is unresponsive and breathing

If someone is not moving and does not respond when you call them or gently shake their shoulders, they are unresponsive.

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

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.

If they are breathing, you will see their chest moving and you may hear their breath or feel it on your cheek.

If they are breathing, move on to step two.

Find out what to do if they are not breathing.

2. Move them onto their side and tilt their head back.

Putting them in this position with their head back helps keep their airway open. It ensures their tongue falls forward and blood and vomit drain out. It is sometimes called the “recovery position”.

3. Call 999 as soon as possible.

If you can’t call 999, get someone else to do it.

Watch how to help someone who is unresponsive and breathing (1 minute 39 seconds)

Common questions about first aid for someone who is unresponsive and breathing

Is the “recovery position” when you move a person on to their side and tilt their head back?


If I think they have a back or neck injury, should I still turn them on their side?


Should I try talking to someone who is unresponsive and breathing?


What do I do if the unresponsive person’s breathing doesn’t seem normal?


What should I do if someone is feeling faint?


 

Is the “recovery position” when you move a person on to their side and tilt their head back?

Yes, “recovery position” is commonly used to describe how someone who is unresponsive and breathing should be placed so that their airway stays open and they can continue to breathe.

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If I think they have a back or neck injury, should I still turn them on their side?

Yes, if you suspect a back or neck injury, you should still move them on to their side so they can keep breathing. Try to keep their spine in a straight line when turning them. If possible, get someone to help you turn them.

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Should I try talking to someone who is unresponsive and breathing?

Yes, talk to them and reassure them. Even if they do not respond to you, they may still be able to hear what is going on.

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What do I do if the unresponsive person’s breathing doesn’t seem normal?

Sometimes when a person is unresponsive their breathing may become noisy, irregular or gasping. This is usually a sign that their heart and lungs are not working properly and you should treat them as an unresponsive person who is not breathing.

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What should I do if someone is feeling faint?

If someone is feeling faint, tell them to lie down on their back and raise their legs. This will improve the blood flow to their brain.

Fainting is caused by a temporary reduction in the flow of blood to the brain and can result in them becoming unresponsive for a short time.

A person who has fainted should quickly become responsive again. If they don't, treat them as an unresponsive person.

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Email us if you have any other questions about first aid for someone who is unresponsive and breathing.