Unconsciousness is caused by an interruption of the brains normal activity. This can be caused by strokes, head trauma, seizures or lack of oxygen. When a casualty is unconscious, their muscles become relaxed, including their swallowing muscles, and if the casualty is not placed on their side, they can choke on their own fluids. If an unconscious casualty is left on their back, their tongue may fall back and block the airway. An unconscious casualty is still breathing and has a pulse, but may not respond to gentle shouting and stimulation. They look like they are in a deep sleep, but cannot be woken up. They may not respond to verbal or painful stimuli.

Causes of Unconsciousness

  • Alcohol or asphyxiation
  • Epilepsy
  • Insulin
  • Diabetic
  • Overdose
  • Uraemia – Kidney damage
  • Trauma
  • Infection
  • Pretend, Pressure, or Poison
  • Stroke, Spinal Injury, Shock

Infants and small children should never be shaken as this can cause death or severe brain injury. They should be assessed by shouting and gentle stimulation.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Casualty has a pulse.
  • Casualty is breathing.
  • Casualty seems to be sleeping but cannot be woken up.
  • Casualty may moan or groan when stimulated or asked to open their eyes.

Treatment of an Unconscious Casualty

  • Seek medical aid immediately.
  • Give the casualty Nil by Mouth.
  • Place the casualty into the lateral position supporting the neck and Head.
    • It obtains and maintains an open airway.
    • Although you cannot swallow your tongue, the tongue can fall across the airway and block it. When placed in the lateral position tongue falls away from the back of the mouth.
    • Fluids and objects will drain away from the mouth
  • Place the head in a low position to allow free drainage of fluid.
  • Even if cervical or spinal injury is suspected, the casualty must still be gently and carefully log rolled into the lateral position.
    • One person supports the neck and head.
    • One or two people support the back and the body.
    • One person supports the legs.
    • Roll the body smoothly and gently and in alignment with no twisting or jerking.
  • Avoid pressure on the chest.
  • Loosen any tight clothing from around the neck, chest, and waist. It makes breathing a lot easier.
  • Always talk to and reassure the casualty. Although they look like they are asleep, they can sometimes hear everything you say.
  • Do a head to toe examination.
  • Treat other injuries.
  • Cover the casualty lightly if they are cold.
  • Stay with the casualty and monitor their vital signs.

For more detailed information about treating an Unconscious Casualty, please download the brochure below.