How to help someone who’s unresponsive

If someone becomes unresponsive they need someone to help keep them safe and prevent further harm until emergency services arrive. The type of help they need varies depending on why they have become unresponsive, whether they are breathing or not breathing and if they are a baby, a child or an adult.

While you should be careful in any situation as to not cause harm rather than help, it’s important to know how to help. If someone is not responding to you and you think they are unresponsive, ask loudly: ‘Are you alright?’ or ‘Open your eyes’.   If they don’t respond, pinch their earlobe or gently shake their shoulders. If they still don’t respond, then you can presume they’re unresponsive.

You should check if the person’s airways are blocked by placing one hand on the person’s forehead and gently tilting their head back. As you do this, their mouth will fall open slightly.  Place the fingertips of your other hand on the point of the person’s chin and lift the chin.

Look, listen and feel for normal breathing (chest movement, sounds and breaths on your cheek). Do this for no more than ten seconds.

You should call the paramedics as soon as possible in an emergency or if someone is with you, have them call while you check on the person.

You can ask the paramedics to talk you through the steps you should take before help arrives.

The safest position for an unresponsive person is the recovery position. This will keep their airway open.

Kneel down next to them on the floor.  The next three steps are for if you find the person lying on their back. If you find them laying on their side or on their front you may not need all three.

  1. Place their arm nearest you at a right angle to their body, with their palm facing upwards.
  2. Take their other arm and place it across their chest so the back of their hand is against their cheek nearest you, and hold it there. With your other hand, lift their far knee and pull it up until their foot is flat on the floor.
  3. Now you’re ready to roll them on to their side. Carefully pull on their bent knee and roll them towards you. Once you’ve done this, the top arm should be supporting the head and the bent leg should be on the floor to stop them from rolling over too far.

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