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HealthInfo Canterbury

Unconscious but breathing

If someone collapses, they may be unconscious. An unconscious person may seem to be asleep. This may just last for a few seconds if someone faints or it may last longer. If they don't respond to noise or touch, it's likely they're unconscious.

Important

Phone 111 and ask for an ambulance if:

Helping someone who is unconscious

Remember DRAB: Danger, Response, Airway and Breathing.

Danger

Check for danger to you and the unconscious person. Look around for dangers like fire, electricity and traffic. If it's safe, carry on. If not, make it safe before going any further.

Response

Is the person responsive? Loudly ask questions like "Can you hear me?" and "Can you open your eyes?" and watch to see if there's any response. You can also gently shake their shoulders or ask them to squeeze your hand.

Important

Don't shake their shoulders if you suspect they may have a back or neck injury.

Don't shake a baby if they're younger than 1 year. Tickle or tap the soles of their feet or rub their forehead instead.

Airway

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

Breathing

Recovery positionConfirm that they're breathing. Place your fingertips on their chin and lift the chin. At the same time, place one hand on their forehead and gently tilt their head back to open their airway. Don't do this if you suspect they may have a back or neck injury.

Now look to see if they're breathing. Look for their chest rising and falling, feel their breath on your cheek, listen for their breathing.

If they aren't breathing or stop breathing, begin CPR for adults & children or CPR for babies.

If you suspect they may have a back or neck injury and they aren't breathing, start CPR, but don't tilt their head back.

If they are breathing, follow these steps:

If they may have a back or neck injury

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2019.

Sources

Page reference: 285328

Review key: HIFAD-141030