Updated 25 July 2012

The recovery position

The recovery position is used to keep the airway open and prevent choking in a semiconscious or unconscious person.



  • The recovery position is used to keep the airway open and prevent choking in a semiconscious or unconscious person.
  • It involves turning the person on their side to allow fluid drainage from the mouth.

What is the recovery position?

The recovery position prevents a semiconscious or unconscious person from choking on the tongue or from vomit, blood or saliva.

It will also keep the airway open and clear, and allow for fluid to drain from the mouth if the person vomits.

Warning: do not use the recovery person if the person has a major injury, such as a back or neck injury.

Recovery position: procedure

  • Kneel next to the person.
  • Remove any glasses and bulky objects, such as keys, from his or her pockets.
  • Place the arm closest to you at a right angle to the body, with the elbow bent at 90 degrees and the palm upwards. With your one hand, bring the furthest arm across the chest and place the back of the hand against the nearest cheek.
  • With the other hand, pull the far leg into a bent position and pull it so that the person gently rolls towards you. Protect the head with one hand.
  • Adjust the leg so that the hip and knee are bent at right angles. This will support the body.
  • Tilt the head up slightly. Make sure that the hand is under the cheek to support the head.
  • Regularly monitor that the airway remains open.
  • Place a blanket over the person and stay close until help arrives.

Recovery position for babies
For a baby over 1 year, follow the steps as described above.
For an infant under 1 year, cradle the infant in your arms and on the side, with the head slightly lower than the body. Support the head and neck, keeping the mouth and nose clear. Check on breathing.

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