First aid: Skills, recovery position, and CPR (2023)

First aid is vital for saving lives. A person can carry out first aid after a life-threatening incident or injury before the arrival of emergency services.

This article examines how to carry out first aid, why it is important, and the central role of recovery position and CPR in saving lives.

Fast facts on first aid

  • The aims of first aid are to preserve life, prevent harm, and promote recovery.
  • In first aid, ABC stands for airway, breathing, and circulation.
  • The recovery position helps minimize further injury.
  • CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It helps maintain the flow of oxygenated blood.
  • While doing chest compressions, you may hear cracks. This is normal.

What is first aid?

(Video) The Recovery Position - First Aid Training - St John Ambulance

First aid: Skills, recovery position, and CPR (1)Share on Pinterest

First aid is an emergency measure, generally consisting of simple, often life-saving techniques that most people can train to perform with minimal equipment and no previous medical experience.

The term usually refers to administering care to a human, although it can also be performed on animals.

It is not classed as medical treatment and does not replace interventions from a trained medical professional.

First aid is a combination of simple procedures and common sense.

Aims of first aid

The aims of first aid are:

  • To preserve life: Saving lives is the main aim of first aid.
  • To prevent further harm: The person who has experienced the injury must be kept stable, and their condition must not deteriorate before medical services arrive. This may include moving the individual away from harm, applying first aid techniques, keeping them warm and dry, and applying pressure to wounds to stop any bleeding.
  • Promote recovery: Taking steps to promote recovery may include applying a bandage to a wound.

How to practice first aid

(Video) Recovery Position - First Aid Training

The most common term referred to in first aid is ABC. This stands for airway, breathing, and circulation. A fourth step will appear in the emergency procedures for some facilities.

  • Airway: Make sure the airway is clear. Choking, which results from the obstruction of airways, can be fatal.
  • Breathing: Once the airways are confirmed to be clear, determine whether the person can breathe, and, if necessary, provide rescue breathing.
  • Circulation: If the person involved in the emergency situation is not breathing, the first aider should go straight for chest compressions and rescue breathing. The chest compressions will promote circulation. This saves valuable time. In emergencies that are not life-threatening, the first aider needs to check the pulse.
  • Deadly bleeding or defibrillation: Some organizations consider dressing severe wounds or applying defibrillation to the heart a separate fourth stage, while others include this as part of the circulation step.

Evaluating and maintaining ABC with a patient depends on the training and experience of a first aider. As soon as ABC has been secured, the first aider can then focus on any additional treatments.

    The ABC process must be carried out in that order.

    However, there are times when a first aider might be performing two steps at the same time. This might be the case when providing rescue breathing and chest compressions to an individual who is not breathing and has no pulse.

    It is important to use a primary survey to make sure the scene is clear of threats before stepping in to help:

    • Danger: Check for dangers to the injured person and yourself. If there is danger, can it be cleared, or can the individual be moved away from further harm? If there is nothing you can do, stand clear, and call for professional help.
    • Response: Once it is clear that all danger has ceased, check if the patient is conscious and alert, ask questions, and see if you get a response. It is also important to find out whether they respond to your touch and are aware of their pain.
    • Airway: Check whether the airway is clear and, if not, try to clear it. Have the injured person lying on their back, and then place one hand on the forehead and two fingers from the other hand on the chin. Gently tilt the head back while slightly raising the chin upwards. Any obstructions need to be removed from the mouth, including dentures. Only insert fingers into the mouth of the injured indivisual if an obstruction is present.
    • Breathing: Is the individual breathing effectively? The first aider should examine the chest for movement and the mouth for signs of breathing. Afterward, get close to the person to see if air can be felt on the cheek from breathing.

    The first aider then needs to carry out a secondary survey, checking for deformities, open wounds, medic alert tags, and swellings.

    If the injured person is breathing safely, carry out a rapid whole-body check for the following:

    • open wounds
    • deformities
    • medical alert tags advising of underlying conditions
    • swellings

    This is known as a secondary survey. As soon as this has been completed, place the individual in a recovery position. At this point, the first aider should call for an ambulance.

    Even if the individual is breathing but is unconscious, there is still a significant risk of airway obstruction. The recovery position reduces the risk to the patient. A first aider should do the following:

    1. If the individual is wearing glasses, remove them.
    2. Kneel next to the person, and place the arm nearest to you at a right angle to the body.
    3. Bring the other arm across the chest. Hold the back of your hand against their nearest cheek.
    4. With your other hand, hold the thigh furthest from you and pull up the knee. Make sure the foot is flat on the ground.
    5. Slowly pull down on the raised knee, and roll the body over towards you.
    6. Move the upper leg slightly, so that the hip and knee are bent at right angles. This makes sure that they do not roll onto their face.
    7. Gently tilt the head back so that the airway is kept open.
    (Video) Recovery Position | First Aid Skills

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    If the person is not breathing, the first aider will need to perform CPR.

    In 2008, the European Resuscitation Council and the American Heart Association (AHA) reversed their policy on the effectiveness of only using chest compressions and advised that they can be used without artificial respiration on adults who suddenly collapse in cardiac arrest.

    (Video) First Aid - Recovery Position

    It is unlikely that CPR will start a heart. Its purpose is to maintain the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and heart, preventing or at least delaying tissue death. CPR can extend the brief window of time during which successful resuscitation can take place without permanent brain damage.

    In 2005, the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) agreed on new guidelines. The new guidelines make it simpler for first aiders and healthcare professionals to carry out early resuscitation.

    The new guidelines stated that rescuers should progress straight to CPR if there is no breathing, rather than checking for a pulse. They also added that rescue breathing must not be performed without chest compression.

    There are two main steps in CPR: Applying chest compressions and then providing breaths.

    Apply 30 chest compressions:

    The first aider should kneel next to the person who is injured. They should be lying on their back.

    1. For adults, place the heel of one hand in the middle of the chest. Place your other hand on top of the first hand and interlace the fingers.
    2. Push the chest down about 1.5 to 2 inches. If the person is a child aged between 1 and 8 years, compress to a maximum of 1.5 inches with one hand. Let go, and wait for the chest to come back up completely before repeating. Your elbows must remain straight throughout.
    3. Push the breastbone up and down to a depth of about 5 cm about 30 times, at a pulse rate of 100 beats per minute.

    Provide two breaths:

    1. Make sure the airway is open, and pinch the nose so it closes.
    2. Gently raise the chin upwards with two fingers of your other hand.
    3. Take a deep breath, seal your mouth over that of the person with the injury, and exhale into the airway.
    4. You should see the chest rise and fall.
    5. To get another breath, lift your head and breathe in deeply. Perform steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 again.

    Repeat the 30 chest compressions followed by the two breaths about five times, and then check for normal breathing. If they are not breathing normally, carry on performing CPR. If breathing restarts as normal, stay with the injured person until help arrives.

    Chest compressions alone can be lifesavers – the crucial factor is time. Make sure you respond quickly.

    (Video) Recovery Position: A Step-by-Step Guide

    It is important not to let your hands bounce when performing chest compressions. Make sure the heel of your hand is touching the chest throughout chest compressions.

    You might hear some pops and snaps during chest compressions. These are normal, so do not stop.

    You can seek official First Aid certification from the Red Cross by following this link.


    How many compressions and breaths should be done for each cycle of CPR? ›

    Seal your mouth over their mouth and blow steadily and firmly into their mouth for about 1 second. Check that their chest rises. Give 2 rescue breaths. Continue with cycles of 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths until they begin to recover or emergency help arrives.

    How many steps are required to place someone in the recovery position? ›

    The Recovery Position: 8 Simple Steps.

    What are the 3 P's in CPR? ›

    In an emergency situation, the three Ps of First Aid help you decide your actions as a first responder. Whether it is to perform adult CPR or address an injury, ultimately, the primary goal is to SAVE LIVES.
    What Are the Three P's of First Aid?
    • Preserve Life.
    • Prevent Deterioration.
    • Promote Recovery.

    What are the 3 types of CPR? ›

    The three basic parts of CPR are easily remembered as "CAB": C for compressions, A for airway, and B for breathing. C is for compressions. Chest compressions can help the flow of blood to the heart, brain, and other organs. CPR begins with 30 chest compressions, followed by two rescue breaths.

    What are the golden rules of CPR? ›

    The five golden rules of CPR to hike cardiac arrest survival...
    • Optimise chest compression rate: 100–125 compression per minute.
    • Optimise compression depth: 50mm.
    • Minimise interruptions.
    • Promote full chest recoil.
    • Control breathing and ventilation.
    9 Aug 2018

    How long is 1 round of CPR? ›

    One cycle of CPR consists of 30 compressions and 2 breaths. When compressions are delivered at a rate of about 100 per minute, 5 cycles of CPR should take roughly 2 minutes (range: about 1½ to 3 minutes).

    How many cycles is 2 minutes CPR? ›

    The average time to complete five cycles of CPR is approximately 2 min for newly trained BLS/AED providers and the majority of the participants found it easier to perform five cycles.

    How many cycles of CPR are there every 2 minutes? ›

    Give 30 compressions followed by 2 breaths, known as “30:2”. Aim for 5 sets of 30:2 in about 2 minutes (if only doing compressions about 100 – 120 compressions per minute).

    What are the 2 main reasons why you should place someone into the recovery position? ›

    If a person is unconscious but is breathing and has no other life-threatening conditions, they should be placed in the recovery position. Putting someone in the recovery position will keep their airway clear and open. It also ensures that any vomit or fluid won't cause them to choke.

    What is the correct recovery position? ›

    Adult Recovery Position

    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.

    What are the 6 steps to recovery? ›

    According to The Developmental Model of Recovery (DMR) developed by Terence Gorski, there are six stages people go through during recovery: transition, stabilization, early recovery, middle recovery, late recovery, and maintenance.

    What are the 5 key steps of first aid? ›

    DRABC is an acronym to describe the procedures used by first aiders when providing first aid:
    • D for Danger – Assess the situation.
    • R for Response – Check consciousness, check on vital signs.
    • A for Airway – Open airway.
    • B for Breathing – Check respiration rates.
    • C for Circulation – Give chest compressions.

    What are the 4 aims of first aid? ›

    Principles of First Aid
    • Preserve Life.
    • Prevent Deterioration. ...
    • Promote Recovery. ...
    • Taking immediate action. ...
    • Calming down the situation. ...
    • Calling for medical assistance. ...
    • Apply the relevant treatment.
    16 Aug 2019

    What are the 3 S's of first aid? ›

    The aims of First Aid can be remembered by thinking of the three Ps: Preserve Life. Prevent The Situation Worsening. Promote Recovery.

    What drugs are used in CPR? ›

    In a patient without IV or intraosseous (IO) access, naloxone, atropine, and epinephrine, when indicated, may be given via the endotracheal tube at 2 to 2.5 times the IV dose. During administration of a drug via endotracheal tube, compression should be briefly stopped.

    What is CPR example? ›

    Pinch the patient's nostrils closed to assist with an airtight seal. Put the mouth completely over the patient's mouth. After 30 chest compression, give 2 breaths (the 30:2 cycle of CPR) Give each breath for approximately 1 second with enough force to make the patient's chest rise.

    What is CPR give example? ›

    Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a lifesaving technique that's useful in many emergencies, such as a heart attack or near drowning, in which someone's breathing or heartbeat has stopped. The American Heart Association recommends starting CPR with hard and fast chest compressions.

    What do the 3 C's stand for CPR? ›

    Training your brain before you find yourself in a high-pressure situation may help you save a life or potentially help someone in pain. There are three basic C's to remember—check, call, and care. When it comes to first aid, there are three P's to remember—preserve life, prevent deterioration, and promote recovery.

    What are the 4 things you must do before giving CPR? ›

    5 Steps for Performing CPR
    1. Check the patient's responsiveness. Shake the unresponsive person by the shoulders and speak loudly to them in an attempt to rouse them.
    2. Check their breathing and pulse. ...
    3. Call 911. ...
    4. Administer chest compressions. ...
    5. Recheck breathing and pulse.
    21 Jan 2021

    What are the 3 conditions the victim must have to start CPR? ›

    Breathing Problems: No breathing or limited breathing may call for CPR. No Pulse: If a pulse can't be felt, the heart may have stopped. Electrocution Injuries: If you witness an electrical injury.

    Do you stop CPR after 2 minutes? ›

    In order to maintain effective CPR, rescuers are advised to swap over after performing 2 minutes of CPR in order to ensure their chest compressions remain effective (delivered at the correct depth and speed).

    How many times do you push for CPR? ›

    Giving CPR

    Continue giving sets of 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths. Use an AED as soon as one is available!

    How many seconds can you interrupt CPR? ›

    Since the 2005 update, resuscitation guidelines recommend a sequence of 30 compressions followed by a 5-s interruption for 2 ventilations, the standard 30:2 CPR.

    What is the ratio for 1 person CPR? ›

    CPR ratio for one-person CPR is 30 compressions to 2 breaths ▪ Single rescuer: use 2 fingers, 2 thumb-encircling technique or the heel of 1 hand. After each compression, allow complete chest recoil. the person becomes responsive.

    What is current CPR ratio? ›

    For healthcare providers and those trained: conventional CPR using chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing at a ratio of 30:2 compressions-to-breaths.

    Do you give CPR if there is a pulse? ›

    The physicians and scientists at the Sarver Heart Center, have found that the old saying "Never perform CPR on beating heart" is not valid. According to these professionals, the chances that a bystander could harm a person by pressing on their chest are slim to none, even if the heart is working normally.

    How long do you do CPR before calling time of death? ›

    [26][27] This recommendation has led to many departments implementing rules for termination of resuscitation that include providing at least 20 minutes of on-scene CPR.

    What is the longest time for CPR? ›

    An Italian mountaineer has survived what is believed to be the longest CPR attempt without extra life support when a team worked on the man for almost six hours.

    When do you stop CPR? ›

    A general approach is to stop CPR after 20 minutes if there is no ROSC or viable cardiac rhythm re-established, and no reversible factors present that would potentially alter outcome.

    What is the importance of recovery position? ›

    The recovery position is when someone is rolled onto their side allowing gravity to help their tongue flop forward and the contents of the stomach to drain out, this will keep the airway clear and allow the casualty to keep breathing.

    What is the most important part of recovery? ›

    An important factor in the recovery process is the presence and involvement of people who believe in the person's ability to recover; who offer hope, support, and encouragement; and who also suggest strategies and resources for change.

    What is another name for recovery position? ›

    What is the recovery position? The recovery position is a way to place a person on their side with their bent limbs supporting their body. It is also known as the semi-prone or stable side position. If you think a person may have a spinal injury, don't try to move them until the emergency services have assessed them.

    Why is side lying a recovery position? ›

    In addition, the recovery position protects against aspiration (“inhalation”) of stomach contents. By placing the casualty on their side, any stomach contents will drain away from the airway.

    What are recovery methods? ›

    Methods to Enhance Recovery

    Some of the most popular recovery techniques for athletes include hydrotherapy, active recovery, stretching, compression garments, massage, sleep and nutrition.

    What are the two types of recovery? ›

    There are two types of recovery: active and passive. Both recovery methods are important, and people may use one or the other at different points to suit their circumstances. In this article, we discuss the benefits of active recovery and how it differs from passive recovery.

    What are the 8 principles of recovery? ›

    Celebrate Recovery Eight Principles
    PrinciplesPrinciple12 Steps
    Principle 1Realize I'm not God. Admit I'm powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.Step 1
    Principle 2Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me recover.Step 2
    6 more rows

    How does the recovery position work? ›

    The recovery position is when someone is rolled onto their side allowing gravity to help their tongue flop forward and the contents of the stomach to drain out, this will keep the airway clear and allow the casualty to keep breathing.

    Why is recovery position on the left? ›

    Patients should be transported to a hospital as quickly, but as passively, as possible. They should be placed on their left side in the recovery position to prevent aspiration of vomit.

    Does it matter which side you put someone in the recovery position? ›

    Short answer – it doesn't matter which side you roll a patient onto! Your main priority with the recovery position is to save life and maintain a patent airway.

    What is the recovery position simple definition? ›

    Meaning of recovery position in English

    a safe lying position in which people should be put when they are unconscious so that they can continue to breathe: The casualty was placed on his side in the recovery position and an ambulance was called.

    How long can you stay in recovery position? ›

    If the patient has to be kept in the recovery position for more than 30 minutes, the recommendation is to turn the patient to the opposite side to relieve the pressure on the lower arm and casualties side. It is strongly advised that you attend one of our courses to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

    What to do if someone is breathing but not waking up? ›

    If someone is not moving and does not respond when you call them or gently shake their shoulders, they are unresponsive.
    1. Check their breathing by tilting their head back and looking and feeling for breaths. ...
    2. Move them onto their side and tilt their head back. ...
    3. Call 999 as soon as possible.

    When Should CPR be stopped? ›

    Once you begin CPR, do not stop except in one of these situations:
    1. You see an obvious sign of life, such as breathing.
    2. An AED is available and ready to use.
    3. Another trained responder or EMS personnel take over.
    4. You are too exhausted to continue.
    5. The scene becomes unsafe.

    Do you place someone in the recovery position if they are not breathing? ›

    If the patient is breathing but not fully conscious and if no other injuries are present, you can place them in the recovery position while you wait for emergency personnel. If an unconscious patient is not breathing, you must clear the airway before putting them into a recovery position.


    1. First Aid Basic Life Support Recovery Position
    (Trainer Courses Ltd)
    2. First Aid - Recovery Position
    (Surf Life Saving New Zealand)
    3. How to do the Primary Survey - First Aid Training - St John Ambulance
    (St John Ambulance)
    4. First Aid - Recovery Position
    (Surf Life Saving New Zealand)
    5. Recovery Position By American CPR Care Association
    (American CPR Care Association)
    6. Resuscitation CPR - First Aid Training
    (Get Licensed - Security Insider)
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