Unresponsive and not breathing adult - CPR

If an adult is unresponsive 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 recovery position.
 
• To check if someone is unresponsive and not breathing, you need to assess the casualty using the Primary Survey.

• If you find they’re unresponsive and not breathing then you’ll need to call 999/112 for emergency medical help. 

Poster download: What to do if an adult is unresponsive and not breathing normally

Watch our video - Adult CPR

Step 1 of 5: Open their airway

  • • If they are unresponsive, open their airway.
  • • Place one hand on the casualty’s forehead and two fingers under their chin. Gently tilt their head back and lift the chin.Open the airway

Step 2 of 5: 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.

Check their breathing

Step 3 of 5: Call for help and start CPR

  • • Call 999 or 112 for an ambulance, or get someone else to do it.

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.

Call for helpRecovery position

 

Step 4 of 5: 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.

Give chest compressionsHand positions adult

  • • 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 5-6cm (2-2½in).
  • • Release the pressure without removing your hands from their chest. Allow the chest to come back up fully – this is one compression.
  • • Repeat 30 times, at a rate of about twice a second or the speed of the song ‘Staying Alive’.
  • Give two rescue breaths.

Step 5 of 5: 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 rises.
  • • Remove your mouth and allow the chest to fall.
  • • Repeat once more.

Carry on giving 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths for as long as you can, or until help arrives.

If the casualty starts breathing normally again, stop CPR and put them in the recovery position.

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