What Does It Mean When Someone Is Unresponsive?

ProTrainings What Does It Mean When Someone Is Unresponsive

If a person suddenly collapses in public and is laying crumpled on the ground, are they unresponsive, or are they simply unconscious? Is there a difference between the two? And if so, is there a difference in the first aid that is needed?

If you’ve ever wondered, “What does it mean when someone is unresponsive?”, know you’re not alone! In short, there is a difference between unconscious versus unresponsive, and the treatment approach is quite different.

Read on to find out what it means when a person is unresponsive and what first aid techniques should be applied to save a life.

What Does It Mean When Someone Is Unresponsive? 

The difference between unconscious and unresponsive is the person’s ability to return to consciousness with or without significant intervention. A person is defined as simply unconscious when they’re asleep, but can return to consciousness without needing medical intervention.

In a more serious case, if a person is unresponsive, they will require immediate first aid from bystanders while first responders are reached. A person who is unresponsive will suddenly collapse due to a lack of physical control over their body and may or may not continue breathing.

Possible Causes of Unresponsiveness

Many people assume that if a person becomes unresponsive, they’re experiencing a cardiac event, but there can be several reasons a person may lose consciousness.

Medical Conditions

A diabetic who is hypoglycemic – or experiencing low blood sugar – may become unconscious due to a lack of glucose in their body. Similarly, someone who has a weakened cardiac system may experience a sudden decrease in blood pressure, which would also cause them to become unconscious. 

Foreign Substances

Some medications may cause a person to lose consciousness if they don’t heed warning labels appropriately. Likewise, illicit or off-label drug use or an overconsumption of alcohol can also be a possible cause of a person losing consciousness. 

Environmental Concerns

A person’s environment may have a lack of proper oxygenation that would cause them to become unconscious. This is commonly seen with people who paint or use other chemicals without adequate ventilation.

ProTrainings What Does It Mean When Someone Is Unresponsive

Beyond airflow, the temperature of the person’s environment can be a significant risk factor for dehydration, which can quickly result in a person losing consciousness. 

What To Do if Someone Is Unresponsive

When a person first collapses, bystanders should begin their first aid assessment by laying the person flat on their back on the floor in a safe area where they are out of immediate harm. Once the victim is in this position, it is important to see if they’re breathing or have a pulse that you can feel.

First Aid for Unresponsive but Breathing

If an unresponsive person is still breathing, that is a great sign. This may point to one of the possible causes we’ve already mentioned, so you can begin to assess solutions to treat cases like low blood sugar or dehydration. Discerning the cause is crucial to treating a person before their condition worsens.

Before looking for any clues or information that may prove helpful in providing appropriate care, the victim should be placed on their right side with their head pulled upwards. Being placed in this position helps to reduce risk that they may accidentally be covering their windpipe with their tongue. It also keeps evacuated foreign material from becoming an additional choking risk.

Removing the person from any direct sunlight, placing a wet towel across the forehead, and allowing them to have clear ventilation may help them become conscious without first responders. That being said, it is important to call 911 or similar services as soon as possible so as to not delay additional medical support the victim may need.

First Aid for Unresponsive but Not Breathing

If a person is unresponsive and not breathing or if you cannot locate their pulse, then this presents a much more immediate threat to their life. Emergency services should be contacted immediately so as not to delay additional resources the victim may need.

Once the person is on their back, following the CAB model for providing CPR is an ideal approach. Immediate and continuously performed chest compressions have been identified to be one of the most important factors in survival for someone who experiences an emergency in which they stop breathing.

When a person suddenly collapses, it is the quick actions of bystanders that make all the difference. Being able to clearly identify that someone is unresponsive and effectively discern the proper first aid response that is needed can change the outcome in the midst of an emergency.

The next time you’re wondering what does it mean when someone is unresponsive, you’ll be able to recognize the signs. While having this knowledge is a great first step, we believe everyone should be CPR trained so they have the skills needed when it matters most.
Contact us today to find out more about how we can simplify your CPR and first aid preparedness training.