Unconscious and not breathing adult
If an adult is unconscious and not breathing,
you’ll need to do CPR (which is short
for cardiopulmonary resuscitation). CPR involves giving someone a
combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths to keep their
heart and circulation going to try to save their life. If they
start breathing normally again, stop CPR and put them in the
• To check if someone is unconscious and not breathing, you
need to assess the casualty using the Primary Survey.
• If you find they’re unconscious and not breathing then
you’ll need to call 999/112 for emergency medical help.
Watch our videos - Unconscious and not breathing adult
Open their airway
• If they are unconscious, open their
• Place one hand on the casualty’s
forehead and two fingers under their chin. Gently tilt their head
back and lift the chin.
Check their breathing
- Maintain the head tilt and chin lift, and look for chest
movement. Listen for the sounds of normal breathing and see if you
can feel their breaths on your cheek.
If they are not breathing, you need to start CPR
(cardiopulmonary resuscitation – a combination of chest pressure
and rescue breaths) straight away.
Call for help and start CPR
- Call 999 or 112 for an ambulance, or get someone else to do
Next you’ll need to perform CPR - cardiopulmonary
resuscitation. This involves giving someone chest compressions and
rescue breaths to keep their heart and circulation going.
If they start breathing normally again, stop CPR and put them in
the recovery position.
Giving chest compressions
• Kneel down beside the casualty on the
floor level with their chest.
• Place the heel of one hand towards the end of their
breastbone, in the centre of their chest.
• Place the heel of your other hand on top of the first
hand and interlock your fingers, making sure you keep the fingers
off the ribs.
• Lean over the casualty, with your arms straight, pressing
down vertically on the breastbone, and press the chest down by
• Release the pressure without removing your hands from
their chest. Allow the chest to come back up fully – this is one
Repeat 30 times, at a rate of about twice a second or the speed
of the song ‘Staying Alive’.
Give two rescue breaths.
How to give a rescue breath
• Ensure the
casualty’s airway is open.
• Pinch their nose firmly closed.
• Take a deep breath and seal your lips
around their mouth.
• Blow into the mouth until the chest
• Remove your mouth and allow the chest
Repeat once more.
Carry on giving 30 chest compressions
followed by two rescue breaths for as long as you can, or until
If the casualty starts breathing normally
again, stop CPR and put them in the recovery position.