AVPU paramedics on scene

Accidents are unpredictable. The good thing with first aid training, we can be confident to step forward and offer help to anyone in need at any point in time.

First aid training is a valuable endeavour that helps preserve life and promote recovery. And among first aid acronyms, learning about the AVPU First Aid Response Scale is a critical basic knowledge you need to know as a first aider in training.

Keep reading to know more about this very important skill!

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What Is AVPU First Aid and What Does It Stand For?

AVPU first aid acronym diagram

First aiders measure a patient’s level of consciousness with the use of the AVPU scale. This primary survey can be done repeatedly to see whether the patient is becoming more or less conscious.

All healthcare professionals, including pre-hospital care providers, EMTs, doctors, nurses, and paramedics, are fully knowledgeable of this First Aid acronym, AVPU.

AVPU stands for Alert, Verbally Responsive, Pain Responsive, or Unconscious.

Let’s further discuss each one:


First aiders need to check whether the patient is fully awake and still has a bodily motor function.

Natural movement is a good sign that your patient is still breathing. The patient should spontaneously open their eyes and respond to voice.

However, they don’t need to be orientated. In most cases, they will seem confused.

If the patient can talk and answer questions immediately, they should still be alert. If not, proceed to the next stage.

Verbal Stimulus

The second stage of this consciousness test is whether the patient responds to a vocal command or not.

Does the patient respond to your voice or vocal commands?

It may be as simple as a grunt or a gesture with the eyes as you speak. If they are not responsive, proceed to the next stage.

Pain Stimulus

If the patient does not respond to voice, the next concern is pain response. If the patient makes a groan or flinches when you’ve squeezed their hand or touched their leg, they should be pain responsive.

Forms of pain stimulus include a pinch, squeeze, or sternum rub. A sternum rub is done by putting pressure on your knuckles with a closed fist to the centre of a patient’s chest.

It is one of the most commonly recognised methods of pain stimulus practised by EMTs and paramedics. However, make sure to perform this stimulus with caution to avoid any misconceptions.

A fully conscious patient will locate the pain, while an unalert patient’s response may only manifest involuntary movements.


An unconscious patient is considered unresponsive if they do not give any eye, vocal, or motor response to both voice or pain stimuli.

At this point, you need to put the patient into the recovery position to manage their airway.

In first aid, any AVPU score of less than ‘A’ will require further help. Call 999 immediately.

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How Can the AVPU Scale Be Useful in Responding to Emergencies?

The AVPU scale in first aid training helps you determine your patient’s level of consciousness and detect altered mental status.

This investigation or physical exam allows you to draw symptoms and make a diagnosis.

Does your patient have low blood sugar, show signs of a stroke, or perhaps a drug overdose?

With this, you will know how to proceed with treatment.

It is also important to reassess and monitor the patient’s AVPU and other vital signs during treatment and transport. This helps determine if the patient is responding to treatment or not.

AVPU vs. GCS: What’s the Difference?

The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is another measure in first aid training used to assess a patient’s responsiveness with the use of a number scale.

The severity of a patient’s trauma is measured according to three aspects of responsiveness: Eye-opening, Motor, and Verbal responses. 

AVPU, on the other hand, is used by medical practitioners to assess and record a patient’s responsiveness and level of consciousness.

How to Use AVPU Properly

In an emergency, the AVPU score focuses on eye, voice, and motor responses to classify patients into either of the four possible outcomes: Alert, Verbally responsive, Pain responsive, and Unconscious.

Classify your patient and perform the necessary procedures. If they fall under V, P, or U, call for an ambulance immediately.

Get First Aid Training Today!

Whether you are a medical practitioner or not, first aid training is a great skill to acquire. We hope learning about the AVPU scale in this article will make a good start!

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