The recovery position
If someone is unconscious and breathing then you need to turn
them onto their side and into the recovery position, to keep their
airway open so they can still breathe.
The following steps tell you how to put someone into the
recovery position if they’re lying on their back. If you find them
lying on their side or front, rather than their back, you may not
need to follow all these steps.
If you think they may have hurt their spine, then you need to
use a special technique to keep their spine straight and minimise
any more damage – see below.
The recovery position for babies (under one year old)
Cradle the baby in your arms with their head tilted downwards.
Holding them in this position will keep their airway open and stop
them choking on their tongue or breathing in any vomit.
Watch our videos
Recovery position for adults and children (one year and
What you need to do - Recovery position
Kneel down next to them on the floor.
Follow the next three steps if you find someone lying
on their back. If you find them lying on their side or their front
you may not need all three:
- Place their arm nearest you at a right angle to their body,
with their palm facing upwards.
- Take their other arm and place it across their chest so the
back of their hand is against their cheek nearest you, and hold it
- With your other hand, lift their far knee and pull it up until
their foot is flat on the floor. Now you’re ready to roll them onto
their side. Carefully pull on their bent knee and roll them towards
you. Once you’ve done this, the top arm should be supporting the
head and the bent leg should be on the floor to stop them from
rolling over too far.
• Next, it is very important that you check that their
airway is open, so they can breathe and any blood or vomit from
their mouth can drain away. To do this, tilt their head back,
gently tilt their chin forward and make sure that their airway will
stay open and clear.
• If you think they could have a spinal injury, you must
try to keep their neck as still as possible. Instead of tilting
their neck, use the jaw thrust technique: Place your hands on
either side of their face and with your fingertips gently lift the
jaw to open the airway, avoiding any movement of their neck.
• Once you’ve put them safely into the recovery position,
call 999/112 for an ambulance.
• Remember that until help arrives you must keep checking
that they’re breathing.
• If they stop breathing at any point, call 999/112
straight away and get ready to give them CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
If you suspect a spinal injury
If you suspect that they might have a spinal injury and need to place them in
the recovery position because you cannot keep their airway open, do
your best to keep their spine as straight as you possibly can:
• To open their airway, instead of tilting their neck, use
the jaw thrust technique: Place your hands on either side of their
face. With your fingertips gently lift the jaw to open the airway,
avoid moving their neck
• To roll them onto their side, use the normal technique
but do your best to keep their spine as straight as you can. If
possible, get up to four helpers, two on each side, to help you
keep their head, upper body and legs in a straight line at all
times as you roll the body over.