Hesperian Health Guides

Loss of Consciousness

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Common causes of loss of consciousness are:

If a person is unconscious and you do not know why, immediately check each of the following:

  1. Is he breathing well? If not, tilt his head way back and pull the jaw and tongue forward. If something is stuck in his throat, pull it out. If he is not breathing, use rescue breathing at once.
  2. If he might have a neck or back injury, do not move him because any change of position may cause greater injury. If you have to move him, do so with great care without bending his back or neck.
  3. Is he losing a lot of blood? If so, try to stop the bleeding.
  4. Is he in shock (moist, pale skin; weak, rapid pulse)? If so, lay him with his head lower than his feet and loosen his clothing.
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  6. Could it be heat stroke (no sweat, high fever, hot, red skin)? If so, shade him from the sun, keep his head higher than his feet, and soak him with cold water (ice water if possible) and fan him.
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  8. If he is breathing and you are sure there are no back or neck injuries, the person can be rolled to the side to prevent choking if he vomits.

If the unconscious person might have a neck or back injury:

It is best not to move him until he becomes conscious. If you have to, move him, do so with great care, because if his neck or back is broken, any change of position may cause greater injury. Look for wounds or broken bones, but move the person as little as possible. Do not bend his back or neck.

Never give anything by mouth to a person who is unconscious.