Emergency advice

Recovery position:

  1. Place nearest arm at right angle.
  2. Put the back of other hand next to the cheek closest to you and hold it there.
  3. Bend the far knee, grasp the far leg and roll them onto their side.
  4. Open airway.
  5. Call 999.

When to put someone in the recovery position

It’s safe to place someone in the recovery position who is not responding to you but is breathing normally. When someone is put into the recovery position their airway is kept open and any vomit would drain away without interfering with their breathing.

What to do

  1. First aid - call 999 or 112 for emergency help

    If you find someone collapsed, you should first perform a primary survey. If it shows that they are unresponsive but breathing, put them in the recovery position.

  2. Adult recovery position - straighten their legs

    Kneel by the casualty and straighten their legs.

    • If they are wearing glasses, or have any bulky items in their pockets, remove them.
    • Do not search their pockets for small items.
  3. Adult recovery position - place arm nearest to you at a right angle to their body

    Place the arm that is nearest to you at a right angle to their body, with the elbow bent and their palm facing upwards.

  4. Adult recovery position - bring their other arm across their chest and place back of their hand against cheek

    Bring their other arm across their chest and place the back of their hand against the cheek nearest to you. Hold it there.

  5. Adult recovery position - pull their far knee up

    With your other hand, pull their far knee up so that their foot is flat on the floor.

  6. Adult recovery position - pull on the far leg and roll towards you on to their side

    Keeping the back of the casualty’s hand pressed against their cheek, pull on the far leg to roll the casualty towards you on to their side. You can then adjust the top leg so that it is bent at a right angle.

  7. Adult recovery position - make sure airway is open

    Gently tilt the casualty’s head back and lift their chin to make sure their airway stays open. You can adjust the hand under their cheek to do this.

  8. First aid - call 999 or 112 for emergency help

    Call 999/112 for emergency help if it hasn’t already been done. Monitor their level of response while waiting for help to arrive.

    • If they remain in the recovery position for 30 minutes, roll them into the recovery position on the other side.
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Related first aid advice

How to do the primary survey

Use the primary survey to quickly assess the situation and check the casualty for injuries or conditions that could be immediately life threatening. Find out what to do.

How to do CPR on an adult

If an adult is unresponsive and not breathing normally, you need to call 999 or 112 for emergency help and start CPR straight away. Learn what to do.

Recovery position for spinal injury

If you suspect someone has a spinal injury but cannot maintain an open airway, you need to place them in the recovery position. Learn what to do.

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