Resource: First Aid & CPR

Care for an Unconscious Patient

An altered state of consciousness (ALoC) is any condition which is significantly different from a normal waking state There are many causes of ALoC including: Drugs/Medication; Lack of nutrients; Low oxygen (hypoxia); Low blood sugar; Epilepsy; Concussion; Cerebral Compression; Head injury.

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Concussion is type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.

Signs & Symptoms
  • Immediate unconsciousness (even for a very short period)
  • Dizziness on recovery
  • Unsteadiness on feet
  • Loss of memory
  • Mild generalised headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Check levels of consciousness AVPU
  • Call 999/112 for V,P or U
  • Maintain airway
  • Place in recovery unless c-spine injury suspected or for airway
  • Complete FAST Assessment
  • Obtain SAMPLE History from patient, relative or bystander
  • Check medication carried or medical alert jewellery
  • Maintain care until handover to appropriate Practitioner
CPGs - Altered State of Consciousness

First Aid & CPR Training, HealthCo Co. Louth

Cerebral Compression

Cerebral Compression is where there is pressure on the brain caused by swelling or bleeding. This can be as a result of a head injury, stroke, tumor or infection.

Signs & Symptoms
  • headaches.
  • vomiting.
  • drowsiness, confusion,
  • dizziness.
  • progressive loss of consciousness.
Treatment of Head Wound
  • Ensure safety (gloves?)
  • Position patient sitting down
  • Examine wound
  • Apply pressure to wound with dressing
  • Keep dressing in place with a bandage
  • Arrange transportation to hospital
  • Monitor vital signs, pulse & breathing & responsiveness
CPGs - Altered State of Consciousness

First Aid & CPR Training, HealthCo Co. Louth

The Recovery Position

If a person is unconscious but is breathing and has no other life-threatening conditions, they should be placed in the recovery position.

Relevant scenarios

Some incidents in which the recovery position can be appropriate are:

  • post-seizure
  • deteriorating diabetic emergency
  • poisonings 
  • Keeps airway clear and open
  • In the case of vomiting it ensures the airway remains clear
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