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How to Help Someone Who is Unconscious but Breathing

November 12, 2021

A person may fall unconscious for several reasons, including dehydration, hypoglycemia, drug or alcohol use, and a major injury, like a concussion. When someone passes out or faints and does not regain consciousness within few minutes, the situation becomes a medical emergency, and bystanders should immediately call 911 for assistance. After calling for help, follow first aid protocols to safeguard the victim’s health, including clearing the airway and moving the victim to a recovery position. 

Keep the Airway Open 

When someone falls unconscious, their muscles relax. If they’re on their back, the victim’s tongue may fall back into the airway and block their breathing. To ensure their airway is clear, 
place two fingers under the victim’s chin and place your other hand on their forehead. Gently tilt their head back to dislodge blockages and keep the airway open until help can arrive. 

Check Their Breathing 

Check the victim to ensure they are breathing. Look for the rise and fall of their chest, listen for breathing sounds, and make sure you can feel their breath on your cheek continuously for at least 10 seconds. If the victim is not breathing, administer CPR until help arrives, otherwise proceed to the next step.

Move Them to Recovery Position

The recovery position is designed for exactly that—recovery. It keeps the victim’s airway open while they’re unconscious and ensures they won’t choke on fluid or vomit. To put the unconscious victim in the recovery position: 

  1. Kneel on one side of the victim 
  2. With the victim face up, straighten their limbs 
  3. Position the arm closest to you at a right angle on the floor, forearm parallel to the head and neck, palm facing up 
  4. Position the other arm across their chest and tuck it under the opposite cheek (the one closest to you) 
  5. Bend the leg furthest from you at a right angle 
  6. Gently roll the victim onto their side 
  7. Tilt the victim’s head back and ensure the airway is free 
  8. Stay with the victim and monitor them until help arrives 

Once the victim is in the correct position, monitor them for signs of airway blockage and wait for paramedics or other medical help to arrive. If the victim remains in the recovery position for 30 minutes or more, roll them onto their other size and reposition their limbs back into the recovery position.  

Stay Prepared with Specialized Health and Safety

First aid protocols, including the recovery position, are essential skills everyone should know. The expert staff at Specialized Health and Safety are certified by the American Heart Association and teach life-saving procedures including CPR, BLS, first aid, SUID prevention, and more.  

Learn how to save a life and receive your CPR certification with Specialized Health and Safety, orvisit our blog for more tips on first aid and medical emergencies.