How to put a child in a recovery position

The vital skill: Putting a child in the recovery position

Numerous accidents and medical emergencies happen every year, and knowing how to position a child in the recovery position correctly could be life-saving. This essential skill is crucial for healthcare professionals, parents, teachers, and caregivers. In this blog, Rose aims to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to perform this technique safely and effectively.

The importance of the recovery position

Placing a child in the recovery position helps maintain an open airway in an unconscious but breathing child, preventing suffocation and allowing fluid to drain from the mouth. It is a critical step in first aid, reducing the risk of a blocked airway and giving the child a better chance at recovery.

Key facts and statistic

According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) data, effective first aid provision can save lives and prevent minor injuries from becoming severe.

Understanding the recovery position

Key definition - The recovery position involves laying a child on their side, ensuring their airway remains open and clear of obstructions, usually used when the child is unconscious but breathing.

Legislation and best practices

In the UK, first aid readiness, including knowledge of the recovery position, is mandated under various health and safety laws. Organisations such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) provide guidelines that schools and care settings must follow:

  • Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 - Requires employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities, and personnel to ensure employees receive immediate attention if injured or taken ill at work.
  • Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework - This mandates that all childcare providers have a paediatric first aider available on the premises during working hours.

Step-by-step guide to positioning a child in the recovery position

  • Ensure safety - Before approaching, ensure that both you and the child are in a safe environment.
  • Check response - Gently tap the child’s shoulder and shout to see if they respond.
  • Call for help - If there is no response, call for emergency help immediately.
  • Positioning the child
  • Place the arm nearest to you at a right angle to their body.
  • Tuck their opposite hand across the chest and hold it against their cheek.
  • With your other hand, grab the far leg just above the knee and pull it up, keeping the foot flat on the ground.
  • Carefully roll the child towards you and tilt their head to keep the airway open.
  • Ensure that the hand under the cheek is supporting the head and that the knee is preventing them from rolling onto their stomach.


  • Training - Regular first aid training for anyone responsible for children is crucial. This ensures that caregivers can respond effectively in different emergency scenarios.
  • Awareness - Regular drills and awareness sessions can help reinforce the knowledge and importance of first aid techniques such as the recovery position.


Knowing how to put a child in the recovery position is an invaluable skill that every caregiver should possess. It ensures that in times of emergency, you are prepared to provide critical assistance that could prevent further harm and even save a life.

Click here to learn more about childcare emergencies, including the recovery position, and to ensure you are prepared to act confidently and correctly in any emergency.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always seek professional medical assistance in emergency situations.

About the author

Rose Mabiza

Rose has dedicated over 15 years to improving health and social care quality through practice, targeted education and training. Her extensive experience includes working with older adults, individuals with mental health conditions, and people with autism and learning disabilities.

The vital skill: Putting a child in the recovery position - ComplyPlus™ - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

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