|An unconscious person is always at risk of the airway becoming blocked by the tongue. There is also the possibility of choking on stomach contents because the valve holding food down often relaxes, allowing food to come back up into the mouth.
If there is damage to the mouth or internal injuries, a person may also be at risk of choking on blood. To try to reduce these risks, most unconscious people are safest if placed in the recovery position while waiting for help to arrive. This position keeps the airway open and allows liquids to drain from the mouth.
ASSESSING A VICTIM
If somebody is unconscious (not responsive) but breathing, your priorities are: to ensure that she stays breathing by keeping the airway; unblocked and regularly looking, listening, and feeling for breaths; to treat any life-threatening injuries such as serious bleeding; and to call for an emergency help. For an unconscious person who you know to be breathing, do a quick check for life-threatening injuries such as severe bleeding and treat if necessary, then move the victim into the recovery position.
HOW TO MOVE AN ADULT INTO THE RECOVERY POSITION
1. Kneel beside the victim. Remove glasses and any bulky objects from the pockets. Ensure the airway is open by lifting the chin and tilting the head. Make sure both legs are straight, then place the arm nearest to you straight from the victim’s body, with the palm facing upward.
2. Bring the arm furthest away from you across the victim’s chest and hold the back of the hand against the cheek nearest to you.
3. With your other hand, grasp the far leg just above the knee and pull it up, keeping the foot flat on the ground.
4. Keeping the victim’s hand pressed against his or her cheek, pull on the far leg and roll the victim toward you and on to his or her side. Adjust the upper leg so that both the hip and knee are bent at right angles.
5. Tilt the head back so that the airway remains open. If necessary, adjust the hand under the cheek to make sure the victim’s head remains tilted and the airways stays open. Call for emergency help if this has not already been done. Check the breathing regularly, and check the lower arm for any loss of color or warmth. If it turns white or blue, or if it gets cold gently move it until the color or warmth returns.
ABC OF FIRST AID
Airway Use the recovery position to help maintain an open airway.
Breathing Continue to check breathing while the person is in the recovery position.
Circulation Treat any life-threatening bleeding.
If the victim has been involved in an accident
that involved a lot of force, such as a fall from
height or an automobile accident, the back or neck
may be injured. The priority in an unconscious
person will always be ABC. If you suspect a person
may have a neck or back injury, or other broken
bones, you may wish to adjust the recovery position
to minimize movement. Gently move the head to a
position where vomit or blood can drain out. If you
are concerned about breathing the person must be
moved into a safer position.