What to do if someone is unconscious and breathing or unconscious and not breathing
There are many causes of unconsciousness but you will not be able to sort them out. Leave the diagnosis to a doctor and in the meantime help the patient stay alive.
Make sure the person can breathe – before anything else.
Get someone to call an ambulance or doctor.
Suffocation is the greatest danger because the tongue can slip back and block the airway.
Wipe out any vomit, blood, food, false teeth, etc. with your fingers (inside a handkerchief if available).
What to do if someone is unconscious but not breathing
If he is not breathing, start resuscitation.
What to do if someone is unconscious but breathing
If he is breathing, lie him down in the recovery position, turn his head to one side and pull the jaw forward to clear the airway. If he makes gurgling or snoring noises you have not cleared the airway.
Give nothing by mouth until the person himself can hold a cup and then he should take only tiny sips or he may vomit.
While awaiting professional help – stop bleeding and prevent shock if present.
Keep him in the recovery position and keep people away.
The recovery position
Many people have died unnecessarily because they have choked on their own tongue or vomit. This can be prevented by placing the person in the recovery position.
Always get an injured or unconscious person into this position as soon as possible except when you suspect a fracture, especially of the spine in which case do not move the person unless his life is threatened.
In such cases, stay by the head, turn it to one side and pull the chin forwards and upwards to clear the airway.
It is not easy to put someone into the recovery position if he is unconscious and much bigger than you. So follow the technique described below and you will not hurt yourself or him.
Kneel beside the casualty as he lies on his back.
Put both arms by his sides.
Bring his far leg across his near one and pull his far hip over so that his far leg can rest on the ground near your knees. His thigh should be at right angles to his hip.
Take care of his head during all this (with your right hand) so that it does not roll on to the ground and hurt him.
Bring his far arm (which is now near your knees) up towards his face and use it to prop the body up a bit so he does not lie flat on his face. His upper arm should end up at right angles to the shoulder. His other arm is behind him, out straight, close to his body.
Adjust the position of the head so that the chin is pulled forwards and the head tilted backwards to clear the airway.
Do not use pillows. If the person is on a bed or stretcher, raise its foot.
Do not leave him alone. Watch breathing and feel for the neck pulse from time to time. At any sight of either failing, resuscitate, start heart massage or do both.
Look in his wallet to see if he carries a card or round his neck or wrist for a Medicalert or Talisman medallion which night explain why he is unconscious. This could help in his later treatment.
Once you have done all this, provided the person is in no danger you can start inquiring as to the possible cause of the unconsciousness.
Head injuries are a common cause and must be taken seriously.
Any child who has been unconscious for however short a period must be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.
Anyone who has been ‘knocked out’ or suffered concussion should receive medical attention even if he feels all right.
It is possible that there may be a fracture of the skull or other damage which is not immediately apparent yet which might cause danger later.
A person who has bruising around the eye sockets or watery or blood-stained fluid from the nose or ears must have immediate medical help.
Anyone who has speech or coordination problems after a period of unconsciousness must be seen by a doctor at once.
Severe headache, dizziness, vomiting or double vision are other important warnings of possible complications.