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.
What to do if an adult is unresponsive and not breathing
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
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.
Step 3 of 5: 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.
Step 4 of 5: Giving chest compressions
- • Kneel down beside the casualty on the floor level with their
- • 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
- • 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.
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
- • 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.