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When someone looks like they’re asleep but they’re unable to respond to noise or body contact, it’s likely they’re unresponsive.

Unresponsiveness can last for a few seconds (e.g. fainting), or for a long time. It’s often brought on by serious illness or injury (often a head injury), or from taking alcohol or other drugs.

You need to deal with someone who is unresponsive and breathing differently from someone who is unresponsive and not breathing (see below).

The treatment is also different for babies (under one year), children (one year up to puberty) and adults.

Find out what to do if a baby is unresponsive but breathing.

Step 1 of 5: What you need to do - Unresponsive and breathing baby

Check for response

  • If your baby is not responding to you and you think they are unresponsive, try to see if they react if gently tap or flicking the sole of their foot.
  • If they do not wake up or respond to you they are likely to be unresponsive. Check to see if they are still breathing normally.
  • Call 999 or 112 immediately especially if the infant has a known heart condition.

Step 2 of 5: Open the airway

Unconscious baby - open the airway

  • Place one hand on the baby’s forehead and gently tilt the head back, then place one fingertip of your other hand on the point of the baby’s chin.

Step 3 of 5: Check breathing

Unconscious baby - check for breathing

  • Look, listen and feel for normal breathing – chest movement, sounds of breathing and breaths on your cheek. Do this for no more than ten seconds.

Step 4 of 5: Place in recovery position

Recovery position baby

  • If they are breathing normally, hold the baby in recovery position
  • Cradle them in your arms, with their head tilted downwards. This will keep their airway open and stop them choking on their tongue or breathing in any vomit..

Step 5 of 5: Call for help

Call for help

  • Call 999 or 112 for emergency medical help taking them with you as you do this.
  • Until help arrives keep checking that the baby is still breathing normally.
  • If they stop breathing normally at any time, call 999 or 112 straight away and give the baby CPR – a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths

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