4 Steps to Take When Someone Passes Out

Watching someone pass out can be frightening, and you might feel helpless if you don’t know the proper ways to care for him or her. Here’s everything you need to keep in mind if you witness someone lose consciousness.

Common Causes of Unconsciousness

People can pass out due to many different reasons, and the cause is not always immediately apparent. Some causes include low blood sugar, low blood pressure, lack of oxygen, blood loss, head injury, heat stroke, and dehydration, among many others. For the most part, the first aid you provide is the same regardless of the cause.

Your Next Steps

1. Respond and Call

If someone is standing when they pass out, catch the person, lower him or her gently to the ground, and call 911. If he or she has any tight-fitting clothing, loosen it to the best of your ability. Anyone who loses consciousness, even for just a moment, should receive an evaluation from a medical professional.

2. Check Vitals

Examine the person and check for breathing, a pulse, and anything lodged in the throat. If you do see something in his or her throat and it’s loose, reach into the mouth and remove it. If the object is stuck or lodged firmly, don’t try to grab it; instead, begin performing CPR. In any scenario where the person stops breathing or has no pulse, you should perform an appropriate version of CPR depending on the cause of unconsciousness, the age of the victim, and your training.

3. Reposition

If the victim is breathing, you can gently roll the person onto his or her side. After you do so, position the victim’s head so it isn’t tilted too far down or too far up, and make sure his or her airway is open. If you think the unconscious state is the result of a spinal injury, don’t try to readjust the victim unless he or she begins to vomit. In this event, roll the person onto his or her side in one swift motion and do your best not to jostle the head and back. Don’t move someone who might have a spinal injury unless necessary.

4. Monitor

Stay with the person and continuously monitor his or her breathing. Try to keep the victim warm until medical staff arrives. If he or she stops breathing while waiting for medical personnel, begin CPR.

If you or a loved one experiences any kind of emergency, you can trust the experienced staff at CHI St. Luke’s Health emergency departments. Find your nearest location so you know where to go when minutes matter.

NIH, U.S. National Library of Medicine | Unconsciousness - first aid
Healthline | First Aid for Unconsciousness
NSC | CPR Steps: Learn How to Save a Life

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