First Aid: The Recovery Position

What is the recovery position?

How would you help a person who is unconscious but still breathing? The answer is the recovery position. The recovery position should be used on a person who is unconscious but is still breathing.

Why the recovery position?

It helps aid the person to maintain an open airway by keeping the tongue from obstructing the airway. Contrary to popular belief it is physically impossible to swallow your own tongue. When the airway is unable to pass air it can lead to decreased oxygen to the body leading to life-threatening emergency hypoxia. The recovery position also allows for fluid to drain from a person’s airway. The person could be unconscious for multiple reasons examples include; after a seizure, alcohol intoxication, and trauma.

When not to use the recovery position?

Note that if someone has experienced a cardiac arrest, is unconscious and not breathing, or is breathing abnormally, you do not use the recovery position. In this case, lay them flat on their back and begin CPR.

If someone has a spinal cord injury we should not manipulate their spinal cord and leave the person in the position they are in until paramedics arrive.

How to place someone in the recovery position?

  • First, lay the person on their back and kneel on the floor beside them.
  • Extend the arm nearest to you at a right angle to the person’s body with the palm facing up.
  • Take the person’s other arm, folding it and pressing it to the cheek closest to you. Hold it in place.
  • Use your other hand to bend the person’s knee (furthest from you) to a right angle.
  • Roll them to their side by pulling gently on the bent knee. Their bent arm supports their head and the other arm prevents you from rolling them too far.
  • Be sure that the bent leg is at a right angle.
  • Tilt the person’s head back and lift their chin to open their airway.

Watch a video here on how to place someone in recovery position

How can I become first aid certified?

We offer classes that explain and demonstrate the recovery position and many other life-saving techniques. Our courses cover a full range of CPR/AED with First Aid. Anyone can take our courses no prior experience is necessary. Our classes are offered as a blended learning option meaning you’ll take an online module at home and then come in for a hands-on demonstration or we have a full all in person at our office in East Austin, TX. You’ll receive a certification card that is valid for 2 years after the course! Sign up for a class today

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