Unconscious and breathing adult
Unconsciousness can last for a few seconds
(e.g. fainting) or for a long time. It’s often brought on by
serious illness or injury (e.g. a head injury), or by taking
alcohol or other drugs.
Watch our video
What to look for
When someone looks like they’re asleep but
they’re unable to respond to noise or body contact, it’s likely
What you need to do
Open the airway
Place one hand on the casualty’s forehead and
gently tilt their head back. As you do this, the mouth will
fall open slightly.
Place the fingertips of your other hand on the
point of the casualty’s chin and lift the chin.
Look, listen and feel for normal breathing –
chest movement, sounds and breaths on your cheek. Do this for no
more than ten seconds.
Put the casualty in the recovery position
This will keep their airway open.
Kneel down next to them on the floor.
The next three steps are for if you find the
casualty lying on their back. If you find them lying on their side
or their front you may not need all three.
1. Place their arm nearest you
at a right angle to their body, with their palm facing
2. 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 there. With your other hand,
lift their far knee and pull it up until their foot is flat on the
3. 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.
But, if you think the casualty could have a
spinal injury, you must 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 or 112 for medical help.
Until help arrives, keep checking the
If they stop breathing at any point, call 999
or 112 straight away and get ready to give them CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation – a
combination of chest pressure and rescue breaths).