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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Unconscious but breathing

If someone collapses, they may be unconscious. An unconscious person may seem to be asleep. This may last for just a few seconds, when someone faints, or it may last longer.


What should I do if someone is unconscious?

Remember DRAB: Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing.


Check for danger – things to look for include fire, electricity, and traffic. If it is safe, continue. If not, make it safe before going any further.


Is the person responsive? Shout a question like "Can you hear me?", or "Can you open your eyes?" and watch to see if there is any response. You can also gently shake their shoulders or ask them to squeeze your hand.


DO NOT shake their shoulders if you suspect they have a back or neck injury.

DO NOT shake a baby – if younger than 1 year, tickle or tap the soles of their feet, or rub their forehead.


Check they can breathe. Lift their chin and tilt their head back to open their airway. DO NOT do this if you suspect they have a back injury. Follow the steps below instead.

If something is blocking their airway and you can safely remove it, do so using your thumb and forefinger. If something is stuck, don't touch it as you may force it further into their airway. If it's stopping them from breathing, follow the advice for choking.


Recovery positionConfirm they are breathing. Look for their chest rising and falling, feel their breath on your cheek, listen for the breathing. If they stop breathing begin CPR for children & adults or CPR for babies.

If they continue breathing, follow these steps:

What if they may have a back or neck (spinal) injury

To keep their airway open so they can continue breathing:

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created December 2016.


Page reference: 285328

Review key: HIFAD-141030