The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Emergencies and First Aid
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Recovery Position

Adult Recovery Position

This position helps a semiconscious or unconscious person breathe and permits fluids to drain from the nose and throat so they are not breathed in. If the person is unconscious or semiconscious after you have done everything on the Emergency Checklist (see p. 1189), move the person into the recovery position while waiting for help to arrive.

Do not use the recovery position if the person has a major injury, such as a back or neck injury (see p. 1191)


1. Kneel next to the person. Place the arm closest to you straight out from the body. Position the far arm with the back of the hand against the near cheek.

2. Grab and bend the person's far knee.

3. Protecting the head with one hand, gently roll the person toward you by pulling the far knee over and to the ground.

4. Tilt the head up slightly so that the airway is open. Make sure that the hand is under the cheek. Place a blanket or coat over the person (unless he or she has a heat illness or fever) and stay close until help arrives.

Infant Recovery Position

Place the infant face down over your arm with the head slightly lower than the body. Support the head and neck with your hand, keeping the mouth and nose clear. Wait for help to arrive.

©2000–2006 President & Fellows of Harvard College

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