The recovery position is used for a casualty who is unconscious but breathing, or for an unconscious person who has foreign material in their airway, or to help clear the airway of water after suspected drowning.
It's important to get help as quickly as possible for someone who's unconscious. If another person is available, ask them to phone 000 for an ambulance. If you are alone with the casualty, turn them into the recovery position before phoning for an ambulance.
The recovery position described below is for children over the age of one and adults. Babies should be laid face down over your forearm with their head supported by your hand.
- Kneel beside the person.
- Put their arm that’s farthest from you out at right angles to their body.
- Place their nearer arm across their chest.
- Bend their nearer leg up at the knee; the other leg should be straight.
- While supporting their head and neck, roll the person away from you.
- When they are on their side, keep their top leg bent at the knee, with the knee touching the ground.
Then tilt the head slightly backwards and downwards to let anything that’s in the airway (such as vomit) drain out, and clear the airway with your fingers.
Last Reviewed: 18/11/2012
1. Australian Resuscitation Council. ARC guidelines, December 2010. http://www.resus.org.au/ (accessed Aug 2011).
2. St John Ambulance Australia. DRSABCD Action Plan (2011, Jan). http://www.stjohn.org.au/images/stjohn/information/DRSABCD%20Action%20Plan%20A4.pdf (accessed Aug 2011).
3. Resuscitation (revised February 2008). In: eTG complete. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; 2011 Jul. http://online.tg.org.au/complete/ (accessed Aug 2011).
4. Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Recovery position. http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/firstaid/recovery.shtml (accessed Aug 2011).
5. A quick guide to first aid. In: Dyson, S, editor. Australian first aid. Canberra: St John Ambulance Australia; 2006. p. 2-12.
First aid in an emergency
Find out what to do if you witness an emergency or see someone who is unconscious and needs help.
First aid for stroke
First aid for stroke and what to do when someone is having a stroke.
Heart attack and cardiac arrest: emergency treatment
First aid and emergency treatment if you suspect someone is having a heart attack, or if someone has had a cardiac arrest.
First aid for bites and stings
First aid tips for bites and stings from some of the most venomous creatures in the world - snakes, spiders, jellyfish, blue ringed octopus and cone snail - all of which are found in Australia.
Seizures: first aid
Find out how to help someone who is having a seizure with this first aid information on seizures. Plus, learn when to call an ambulance.