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What is the Recovery Position?

The recovery position is used to situate an unconscious person in a manner to help keep their airway open and clear to ease breathing and to help avoid having the casualty aspirate (inhale liquids such as saliva or vomitus into the lungs)

If the person is unconscious but breathing normally (irregular, gasping or shallow breaths are not normal breaths):

  • Place the person in a recovery position. follow these steps:
    ~ with the person lying on their back, kneel on the floor at their side
    place the arm nearest you at a right angle to their body with their hand upwards, towards the head
    ~ tuck their other hand under the side of their head, so that the back of their hand is touching their cheek
    ~ bend the knee farthest from you to a right angle
    carefully roll the person onto their side by pulling on the bent knee
    the top arm should be supporting the head and the bottom arm will stop you rolling them too far
    ~ open their airway by gently tilting their head back and lifting their chin, and check that nothing is blocking their airway
    stay with the person and monitor their condition until help arrives

This video form the Epilepsy Society provides a step-by-step guide on how to put someone into the recovery position.

If a head, neck or spinal injury is suspected:

  • If you think a person may have a spinal injury, don't attempt to move them until the emergency services reach you.
  • Leave that person in a face-up position unless you cannot determine whether the person is breathing then roll the patient on back in one unit trying to keep the head aligned with the body. If it's necessary to open their airway, place your hands on either side of their head and gently lift their jaw with your fingertips to open the airway. Take care not to move their neck.

If you are alone and have to leave the person, or you cannot maintain an open and clear airway because of fluids or vomit:

  • Move the person to his or her side while keeping the head, neck and spine in a straight line by placing the person in the modified recovery position.
Recovery Position Recovery Position
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