Unconscious Person


For all medical emergencies dial Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for Ambulance

Would you know what to do if someone collapsed in front of you?

Many people die per year that might have been saved if first aid had been available. But fewer than one in five of us know even the basics. Admittedly, it can be scary pounding on a stranger's chest, and can't you harm them by doing it wrong? Paramedic Craig says there are five main life-threatening events for which we should all be able to give first aid. These are when someone is choking, has severe bleeding, is having a heart attack, is unconscious and breathing or is unconscious and not breathing.

The answer

When you are providing first aid, remember to talk to the individual and not just treat them like a mannequin. Giving first aid is about trying to keep someone alive until professional medical help arrives. For the severe problems listed here, you only have three to four minutes to start your first aid or the individual could die.

If you think someone needs first aid because they seem to be unconscious, approach them using the acronym (C.O.W.S) call out Can you hear me, Open your eyes, What’s your name and Squeeze my hands. If they respond. Call the emergency services on 000. It is then sensible to place the individual in the recovery position (lying on their side with the upper leg's knee and hip bent at right angles and the casualty's head tilted back so the airway is open).

If the individual is breathing and unconscious, and you think they might have a spinal injury, then don't move them.

If someone is bleeding severely from an arm or leg you should call for help and put firm pressure on the wound with your palm. Raise the arm or leg, gently, with support, higher than the heart to reduce blood loss. Tourniquets are controversial and there is some proof that when used by first aiders they increase blood loss by blocking the veins more than the arteries.

If someone is unconscious and not breathing, you need to commence Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Interlock your fingers and place the heel of one hand on the centre of the individual's chest. Press down so you can feel the ribs move down by 1/3rd the depth of the chest then complete 1 cycle of 30 compressions at a rate of 100 compressions per minute.

Then tilt the head back to open the airway pinch the nose and give 2 breaths and then repeat and continue the cycles until medical help arrives. CPR moves oxygenated blood round the body and to the brain, but it won't usually restart the heart. A defibrillator is needed, which are located in some public areas like shopping centres, leisure centres etc.


In most cases you are more likely to help than injure someone. You can find out about choking and heart attacks, and for additional first aid advice, by booking into a first aid course and be prepared to provide first aid whenever you need to.