Body position in poisoning

You come across a patient in the community who has taken an overdose of pills. The ambulance is on its way and you have no medical equipment. Is there any first aid that might help? How should you position the patient if they are unconscious?

Authors of a BestBet in the EMJ searched the literature to answer the three-part question:
In [orally poisoned patients] does [a specific body position] result in [a better outcome for the patient]?

The limited evidence they found from just two papers suggests that drug absorption is lowest in patients lying on their left side, so you might want to consider placing an unconscious overdose patient in the left-sided recovery position prior to definitively managing them in hospital. The theoretical increased risk of pulmonary aspiration on the left side should be considered however. The table shows just how limited this evidence base is – but the idea is an interesting one.

Optimal body position in oral poisoning cases
Emerg Med J 2010;27:952-953 Full text from the BestBets site

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