How to Perform First Aid to Restore Breathing and/or Pulse

The following steps should be taken when assessing an unconscious adult casualty. These actions may restore breathing or the casualty’s pulse.

There are several mnemonics which can be used to help you remember these steps. We prefer the mnemonic DR ABC.


Check the area for any dangers. Why is the casualty collapsed? Are there any dangers to yourself?

You are the most important person! Take steps to reduce the risk of harm to yourself and bystanders


Kneel by the casualty’s head. Loudly shout in both ears and gently shake their shoulders. Look for signs of a response

If you do not get a response then the casualty is unconscious.

Airway – open

Place one hand on the forehead and tilt the head backwards. Using two fingers lift the casualty’s chin.

This technique is known as the ‘head tilt chin lift’ and is used to move the tongue away from the back of the throat.


Breathing – check

Place the side of your cheek over the casualty’s mouth. Look at the chest and listen/feel for breathing for a maximum of 10 seconds.

You are checking for normal breathing. The occasional breath does not count as normal breathing (this is known as agonal breathing).


If the casualty is not breathing normally then you should call for emergency medical assistance and a defibrillator.

Then you should start Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to keep the brain alive.

First deliver 30 chest compressions then 2 rescue breaths. Once a defibrillator arrives it should be used immediately.

Continue CPR until the casualty shows signs of life or further medical help takes over. 



John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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1 Response

  1. Kazikwami says:

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