Unconscious Patient, Airway, and Recovery Position

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Be able to respond to the needs of an unconscious patient. Know how to open an airway, and how to place in the recovery position.




Opening and maintaining an airway:

Airway - Conscious casualty - Ask the casualty to remove any food, chewing gum or other loose items such as teeth from their mouth.
Airway - Unconscious casualty - Remove any food or loose debris (only remove teeth if they are loose and likely to fall out), remove any vomit. The best way of doing this is to roll the casualties head to one side and scoop out any debris with two fingers. This needs to be done, it is a life saver.
Often the tongue can fall to the back of the throat and block the airway. Gently tilt the head of casualty back, whilst lifting the chin. This puts the casualties head and neck into the "sword swallowers" position; it opens the airway fully and moves the tongue off the back of the throat. This is the same position that is achieved in the recovery position.
If the casualty then begins to breath, put them into the recovery position, if not move onto CPR

How to put the casualty in the recovery position:

* With casualty on their back, straighten the casualties body; kneel next to the casualty (between their hips and shoulders).
* Lift the closest arm and put it in a policeman's stop position
* Take hold of the casualties other hand with your hand that is closest to their head, palm to palm
* Place the casualties hand at the side of their face
* Lift the knee on the opposite side of the casualty, so that it is bent and their foot is close to the other knee
* Use the casualties knee as a lever to roll the casualty towards you and onto your knees
* Extend the head and neck gently to open their airway, and leave the casualty lying on their own hand. (Editor's note - in outdoor first aid, we are taught to push the lower arm upwards so that the head rests on their arm, keeping their neck straight - this isn't taught in normal "illness" first-aid, but is more relevant when we're away from civilisation and the most likely cause of unconsciousness for us is injury rather than illness)
* As you move backwards, raise their knee further towards their chest so that they stay in that position
* Re-check that the casualty is breathing
* Get an ambulance


  • casualty
  • first aid
  • recovery position
  • Unconscious patient

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  • Emergency Aid - Unconscious and breathing