If a person is breathing normally and unable to be woken up (unconscious), they should be gently placed in the recovery position, avoiding any twisting or forward movement of the head and spine.
What is the recovery position?
The recovery position is a way to place a person on their side with their bent limbs supporting their body. It is also known as the semi-prone or stable side position.
|If you think a person may have a spinal injury, don't try to move them until the emergency services have assessed them.|
When to use the recovery position
The recovery position is designed to keep unconscious people safe by making sure their airway is kept clear and open. It also reduces the risk of any vomit or fluid causing them to choke.
Use the recovery position when someone is unable to be aroused or is unresponsive. For example:
- does not respond to commands such as “open your eyes” or “squeeze my hand”
- does not react to you grasping and squeezing their shoulders firmly
- only groans without opening their eyes.
How to put someone in the recovery position
Gently place the person into the recovery position while being careful to avoid any twisting or forward movement of the head and spine.
If you think they might have neck or spinal injuries, log roll them on their side, supporting their head and keeping the spine in line.
For more detailed information and images see: Essential first aid for New Zealanders Red Cross NZ, 2019.
A video of the recovery position
(St John Ambulance, NZ, 2016)