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Unresponsive Pronunciation: Unresponsive (uhn-ri-spon-siv)

Definition: A person is considered unresponsive when they do not react to stimuli such as voice, touch, or painful stimulation. Unresponsiveness is a critical condition that requires immediate medical attention.

What does it mean to be Unresponsive?


Unresponsiveness can be a symptom of various serious conditions, such as stroke, cardiac arrest, or severe trauma. It suggests a lack of normal alertness or conscious awareness. The person may not respond to external stimuli like loud noises, physical touch, or even pain.

Key Facts about Unresponsiveness:

  • Unresponsive individuals may be unconscious or in a comatose state.
  • The level of unresponsiveness can vary from slight drowsiness to complete unconsciousness.
  • Unresponsiveness is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention.
  • While waiting for medical help, it’s important to keep the person safe, monitor their vital signs, and perform CPR if necessary.

Handling an Unresponsive Person

What to do when someone is unresponsive?

If someone is unresponsive:

  • Check their responsiveness by shouting their name and gently shaking their shoulders.
  • If they remain unresponsive, call for emergency medical help immediately.
  • Open the person’s airway and check for breathing.
  • If they’re not breathing or breathing irregularly, start CPR immediately and use an AED if available.

Frequently Asked Questions About Unresponsiveness

What can cause a person to become unresponsive?

There are many potential causes of unresponsiveness, including severe illnesses, injuries, drug overdose, hypoxia (lack of oxygen), stroke, or cardiac arrest.

What should I avoid doing when someone is unresponsive?

Never leave an unresponsive person alone, avoid shaking them violently, and do not try to make them sit or stand up. It is also crucial not to give them anything to eat or drink.


  1. American Heart Association. (2022). Emergency Treatment of Cardiac Arrest. Retrieved August 2, 2023, from
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2023). Unconsciousness: First aid. Retrieved August 2, 2023, from