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When to use the recovery position in First Aid

You may have heard of the “recovery position” when talking about First Aid. But what is it exactly and WHY is it so important to saving lives?

The recovery position is a way of placing a person on their side. It is used to keep a person’s airways open and to prevent vomit or other fluids from choking them when they are unconscious. It also prevents their tongue from falling into the back of their throat and choking them.

It should ONLY be used when the person is still breathing normally but may be unconscious or semi-conscious.

If the person is NOT breathing, you MUST roll them onto their back and start immediate CPR.

To put someone into the recovery position, follow these steps:

1. Start with kneeling yourself next to the person. Quickly check to see if they have anything bulky or sharp in their pockets that could harm them or if they have a mobile phone that could get damaged, remove that first.

2. If they are laying on their back, take the arm closest to you and extend it out from their body and bend it at the elbow in an “L shape” with their palm facing up.

3. Take the other arm and place it across their chest and hold the back of their hand against their cheek closest to you and hold it here.

4. With your other hand, cock their leg that’s furthest away from you by lifting up their knee so their leg forms a triangle with the ground and their foot is flat on the ground.

5. Using one hand on their knee and the other on their hand pressed to their check, gently roll them over towards you. Their knee should comfortably rest against the ground. Extend that leg to full “L shape” to prevent them from rolling over further. Their top arm should be gently supporting their head. Tilt their head back to keep their airways open.

Keeping them in this position is the best thing for them while you wait for the ambulance or medical help to arrive. If they do stop breathing, of course, immediately roll them over onto their back again and start CPR.

The only time you would NOT put a person who is unconscious BUT breathing in the recovery position is IF you suspected a spinal injury where moving them could make their injury worse. (We will cover first aid for spinal injuries in another blog.)

While this article helps with understanding recovery position, it is no substitute for proper first aid training. Book yours with us now at


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