The recovery position is a first aid technique recommended for assisting people who are unconscious, or nearly so, but are still breathing. It is frequently taught as part of classes in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation}.

It involves turning the unconscious person on their side so that, if stomach contents began to come up, they will reach the mouth and drain out, rather than dropping back into the lungs.

When an unconscious person is lying flat on their back, they are at risk of having stomach contents come up the esophagus and fall back into the lungs.

This is a common risk with unconsciousness caused by excessive alcohol consumption. It is why people die from drinking too much, since alcohol, by itself, is rarely poisonous enough to kill someone on its own. However, if someone passes out, lies flat and then begins to vomit, the vomit often falls back into the lungs rather than exiting the mouth. If the volume of stomach contents is enough, the victim in such a circumstance will actually drown.

It is also a risk with any condition in which a person becomes unconscious.

If the volume is less, the stomach acid will attack the inner lining of the lungs and the victim will suffer a condition known as aspiration pneumonia.

To put someone in the recovery position, first:

  • put yourself in a position where you are pulling the person toward you. Your own body can serve as a brake if the person's weight is more than you can control as you start to bring them up.
  • raise the arm closest to you so that it will not serve as a block as you try to bring the person toward you.
  • cross the furthest ankle over the closest ankle before you draw the person toward you. This will allow the body weight to begin coming in your direction, to make it easier to turn the person over.
  • support the waist and back of the neck as you pull the person over.
  • when you have the person on their side, the knee of the ankle you crossed should fall naturally into place as a kind of tripod to hold the person up on their side
  • use the elbow of the furthest arm to create a second tripod.
  • different people wind up in more or less appropriate positions when you do this. Be sure the chin is up and the mouth is clear and the person is able to breathe.

Note that if the person is so unconscious that the recovery position is necessary, it is also usually necessary that an ambulance or other medical personnel be called to the scene.