What Is The Recovering Position In First Aid?

The recovery position is a very effective technique that is designed to keep the airway open on an unconcious breathing casualty. I’m going to explain to you how to place a casualty in the recovery position in six easy steps.

I will also talk about some considerations around the following common questions related to the recovery position such as pregnant women, casualties with a suspected spinal injury, how long to keep someone in the recovery position and using the recovery position for casualties who are drunk or under the influence of substances.

It is always important to call 999 for an ambulance if you have a casualty who is unconscious.

Step 1 – Raise The Hand Closest To
You Into A Wave
Step 6 – Monitor Until The
Emergency Services Arrive
Step 2 – Take The Back Of Thier
Hand And Place It On Their Cheek
Which Side Should You Put A
Pregnant Casualty In The Recovery
Position?
Step 3 – Raise The Leg Furthest
Away From You
How Long Should You Keep A
Casualty In The Recovery Position?
Step 4 – Roll The Casualty Towards YouWhat Should You Do If You Suspect The Casualty Has A Spinal Injury?
Step 5 – Secondary AdjustmentsWhat Should You Do If The
Casualty Is Drunk Or Under The
Influence Of Substances?

Step 1 – Raise The Hand Closest To You Into A Wave

Take hold of the casualties’ arm that is closet to you and place it into a waving position, as demonstrated in the picture above. If you can have get the elbow at 90 degrees then great, however don’t worry too much about being exact. Everybody has different flexibilities and body shape / size, so go with the natural position the casualties arm stays in when you attempt step one.


Step 2 – Take The Back Of Thier Hand And Place It On Their Cheek

Take the hand of the casualties’ arm furthest away from you, I find it easiest to take hold of the thumb. You then need to bring the arm across the casualties’ body, placing the back of their hand on the cheek nearest to you, as pictured above. This is the hand that will support their head once you roll them into position, assisting with keeping the airway open and clear. You may need to hold this arm in place as it could flop back to the floor as the casualty is unconscious.


Step 3 – Raise The Leg Furthest Away From You

Take hold of the casualties’ leg furthest away from you underneath the knee and hinge it upwards until it is in the position shown in the picture above. Using the knee to pull the leg into this position is the easiest way to achieve this movement, even when the rescuer is considerably smaller than the casualty.


Step 4 – Roll The Casualty Towards You

Now you are ready to roll the casualty into position. You need to roll them towards you carefully, using their shoulder and hip to pull them towards you. To make them more stable and to prevent them from over rolling you can use the leg on top and pull out into a right-angled position which creates a stable base.


Step 5 – Secondary Adjustments

Now that the casualty has been rolled into the recovery position you need to make sure you open the airway again by tilting the head back using your hands on the forehead and under the chin. As I mentioned earlier everyone has a different body shape and size, so they my finish in slightly different positions when you put them in the recovery position.


Step 6 – Monitor Until The Emergency Services Arrive

Once you have the casualty in the recovery position it is important that you continue to monitor their breathing and level of consciousness until the emergency services arrive. If you are concerned with the breathing rate of the casualty, you should roll them onto their back and carry out a primary by opening their airway using the head tilt chine lift technique. Then check for breathing using the ‘look, listen and feel’ method. If you are happy with their breathing then put them back into the recovery position.


Which Side Should You Put A Pregnant Casualty In The Recovery Position?

When you know or suspect a casualty is pregnant and you need to place them in the recovery position you must always place them onto their left hand side. The reason for this is due to a large vein that runs up from the lower body, back to the heart called the inferior vena cava. When a women is pregnant, especially in the third trimester this vein can be depressed if they are laid on their right side for a period of time. If this happens it can cause issues with mother and baby and can be fatal. If you suspect pregnancy then always place them on their left hand side.


How Long Should You Keep A Casualty In The Recovery Position?

The short answer is along as you need to, ensuring to continually assess the casualties breathing rate, vital signs and regulating their body temperature while you are waiting for the emergency services to arrive. There are some considerations however when keeping someone in the recovery position for a long period of time. It is advisable to move the casualty to the other side every 30 minutes. All you need to do is roll the casualty onto their back and go through the above 6 steps from the other side. You should do this every 30 minutes until help arrives. Exceptions to this rule could be injury, for example a broken leg or arm that you might not want to put pressure on to, or pregnant ladies who need to remain on their left side due to the reasons mentioned above.


What Should You Do If You Suspect The Casualty Has A Spinal Injury?

As I’m sure most people are aware, if you suspect a casualty has a spinal injury and they are breathing, the best initial action we can take is to immobilise them in the position found. There are however some circumstances where we will need to move the casualty or place them into the recovery position.

If you are in a dangerous environment, a blind bend on a busy road for example or near rising water, it maybe unsafe for you and the casualty. You may have to move the casualty to prevent them for further serious injury or death and most importantly to protect you as the rescuer.

If you are immobilising the unconscious casualty with a suspected spinal injury and their airway becomes compromised for example they vomit, then you will need to place them in the recovery position to clear their airway. This could risk further injury to the spine, however a blocked airway is a life threatening emergency and must take precedence over the spinal injury.


What Should You Do If The Casualty Is Drunk Or Under The Influence Of Substances?

It is really important to monitor those who are under the influence of drink or drugs carefully. They are at risk of having a compromised airway due to them vomiting, so the recovery position is a very useful tool to help you manage this. If any casualty is sick while on their back it then becomes a time critical life threatening condition which needs to be rectified as quickly as possible. Do not follow the steps above if this has happened. Instead just grab an item of clothing and their belt for example and pull them into their side to immediately start clearing their airway. Once this has been dealt with you can use secondary movements to get them into the recovery position until emergency services arrive.


REMEMBER: NEVER LEAVE AN UNCONSCIOUS CASUALTY ALONE UNLESS YOU NEED TO LEAVE TO CALL FOR HELP OR IF YOU ARE IN DANGER.

I hope you found this blog teaching you how to put an adult in the recovery position useful and it has cleared up any myths or frequently asked questions around the recovery position.

This technique is taught on all of our first aid courses.

Contact us today for more information on the range of first aid courses we can offer.


Jack Ward
Jack Ward

Jack has over 12 years experience with the emergency services, delivering emergency first aid in many different environments and circumstances. Over the last two years he taken his expertise in training, running training courses for all types of workplaces to keep organisations and their workforce ready for any medical emergencies they may face.

    3 replies to "How To Put An Adult In The Recovery Position In 6 Easy Steps"

    • Tracey

      Great step by step guide. Clear explanations backed up with photos really helpful and enables everyone to understand and improve their technique. Visual aids are excellent way to reach everyone. Thanks Jack, another great blog which may enable others to save a life one day.

    • Mary ratcliffe

      Interested in the course

    • Dave

      Expert advice, delivered in an easy to follow step by step guide. Great because I can go over it many times and the photos of positions really reinforces the written instructions making it effective and easy to learn from. Thanks Jack, great advice yet again.

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