Recovery position

Q: When should you put someone in the recovery position?
A: When they are unresponsive and breathing normally. The recovery position ensures the airway does not become blocked by the tongue or by any vomit or blood.

Q: How do you determine if someone is unresponsive?
A: They do not respond to any verbal or physical stimuli which you have given them. You should speak to the casualty, and if they do not respond, shake their shoulders. If they do not speak, make eye contact or move in a deliberate manner, they are unresponsive.


Q: When should you perform CPR?
A: When someone is unresponsive and they are not breathing normally (e.g. not breathing at all or taking gasping breaths). This indicates cardiac arrest.

Q: When should you stop CPR?
A: When the ambulance arrives and paramedics are ready to take over, if the casualty show signs of recovery (breathing or responsiveness returns), or if the situation changes and you are now in immediate danger.

Q: At what point should you dial 999 for an ambulance if you need to give CPR?
A: As soon as you realise the casualty is unresponsive and not breathing normally - before you begin CPR. If possible, put your phone on speaker as this will enable you to begin CPR sooner. If you are unsure what to do, the ambulance dispatcher will talk you through it.

Q: What if you break a rib?
A: The most common area to become fractured during CPR is actually the sternum. If you think you may have fractured the casualty's ribs or sternum, just ensure your hands are in the centre of the chest and continue with chest compressions. It is more important to ensure there is oxygenated blood circulating in the casualty's body, giving them a chance of survival, than preventing fractures. CPR is the only chance of survival for someone who is in cardiac arrest and it is not possible (within reason) to make things worse for them.

Q: What happens if you blow too much air into the casualty when giving rescue breaths?
A: The casualty may vomit as air could become forced into the stomach. In which case, you need to turn them on their side towards you so the vomit can drain out and the airway is cleared. Put them back on their back and re-check their airways and breathing.

Q: What if I can't give mouth to mouth or mouth to nose resuscitation?
A: If you are unable or unwilling to give rescue breaths, you can give chest compression-only CPR. This is more effective than giving no CPR at all and the blood may remain sufficiently oxygenated to help for some time. Some organisations recommend this for those who have had no first aid training. However, standard CPR should always be the preferred option.


Q: What should you do to stop a nose bleed?
A: Sit the person down and tilt their head forward to allow blood to drain from the nostrils. Pinch the bridge of their nose, or ask them to do this themselves. They should breathe through their mouth. During this time they should try  not to speak, swallow, spit, sniff or cough to avoid disturbing any blood clots that have formed.

After 10 minutes, release pressure. If the bleeding has not stopped, apply pressure for another 10 minutes. If the bleeding is severe or lasts more than half an hour, arrange for the sufferer to go to hospital.


Q: What should you do if someone is having a major seizure?
A: Make the area around them safe by removing any objects they might strike so they are less likely to injure themselves. Do not restrain them and do not put anything in their mouth. If you are able to, try to protect the head. Time the seizure to see how long it lasts for, as this may be important for medical professionals later. Cover the casualty with a blanket/jacket to preserve their modesty as they may have become incontinent. Call 999 if you have concerns over their airways or breathing, if they injure themselves severely, it is their first ever seizure, or if the seizure lasts longer than 4-5 minutes.


Q: What is the difference between 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree burns?
A: We now call burns superficial, partial thickness and full thickness, respectively.
A superficial (1st degree) burn is where the top surface layer of the skin has been burnt.
A partial thickness (2nd degree) burn is where the burn penetrates the second layer of skin and may create blisters
A full thickness burn (third degree) is the most serious and is where the burn has penetrated deep into the skin and underlying tissue. The skin may look waxy or charred and there may not be pain, as the nerve endings may have been destroyed.

The information contained is for guidance only and should not be used as a substitute for recognised training. If you're interested in becoming a qualified first aider, our sister company Safety First Aid Training offers a selection of introductory and comprehensive first aid and fire safety courses.