Recovery Position

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Last Medical Review: March 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
Recovery position (March 28, 2020)

A person who does not respond but still breathes normally is probably unconscious. Then you have to help the person by putting them in stable side position so that the airways are kept open.

When you put the person in stable lateral position, there is no risk of the tongue falling backwards and blocking the airways. In this way, the person does not risk suffocation if they vomit or get mucus in the throat.

It is important to check that the person is able to breathe on their own with normal breaths before putting them in stable side position.

If a child does not breathe normally, start cardiac resuscitation and alarm 911 after one minute. If an adult does not breathe normally, you should instead alarm 911 first and then start cardiac resuscitation.

Check if the person is conscious

  • Speak or shout at the person and ask how they are doing.
  • Gently pinch or shake the person in the shoulders.

If you do not get any reaction, assume that the person is unconscious. You should call for help if you are in a place where there are other people.

Check if the person is breathing

Open the airways:

  • Place the person on his back on a flat surface.
  • Place one hand on the person’s forehead and bend your head back slightly.
  • Lift the person’s chin by placing two fingers under the chin and gently lift the chin upwards. Make sure not to push the soft parts under the person’s lower jaw.

Check if the person is breathing:

  • Watch for chest and stomach moving.
  • Listen for air flowing in and out by putting your ear near the person’s mouth and nose.
  • Keep your cheek over the person’s nose and mouth and feel the air flow out.

If a child does not breathe, do cardiac resuscitation and call 911 after one minute. If an adult does not breathe, you should call 911 instead before you begin cardiac resuscitation.

If the person is unconscious but breathing himself with normal breaths, put them in stable side position and call 911.

Recovery position

Start by putting the person on your back. Place your arm closest to you straight out.

  • Place the upper arm across the chest with the back of your hand to the cheek. Hold the grip while you angle the person’s far knee with your other hand.
  • Press the lap and gently turn the unconscious towards yourself.
  • Adjust the person’s hand under the cheek to keep the airways open. Make sure the head cannot fall forward.
  • Pull the upper leg out of the body so that the body is stable.

Call 911 after the person has been put in stable side position, as they must be examined by a doctor as soon as possible. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, the person must be kept under surveillance. You should regularly watch, listen and feel if the person is breathing. Pay attention to whether the person is getting worse.

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