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Learning About a Brief Resolved Unexplained Event (BRUE) in Infants

What is it?

A brief resolved unexplained event (BRUE) is a sudden and frightening change in how your baby breathes, looks, or responds. For example, your baby may start to have trouble breathing, or your baby's skin may turn blue or pale. It is scary to see this happen. But the change is brief—usually less than a minute—and your baby quickly gets better.

Why a BRUE (say "broo") happens isn't known. Doctors will check your baby carefully to see if the symptoms could have been caused by a problem such as an illness, infection, or injury. The event is called a BRUE when doctors don’t know what caused it.

In many cases after a BRUE, after a doctor has listened to what happened and checked your baby carefully, your baby will not need tests or a stay in the hospital.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of a BRUE start and end suddenly.

During a BRUE, your baby may:

  • Turn blue or pale around the face or body.
  • Have trouble breathing, like breathing too slowly or too quickly, or appear to stop breathing.
  • Become stiff or floppy.
  • Seem too sleepy or pass out (lose consciousness).

How is it diagnosed?

A BRUE usually isn't diagnosed with testing. Instead, to find out if your baby had a BRUE, the doctor will:

  • Ask about the changes you saw in your baby.
  • Do a physical examination.
  • Ask about your baby's health and the health of family members.

If the doctor thinks there could be a problem (based on what you tell them and what they find after checking your baby), your baby will have tests to look for that problem.

How can you care for your infant at home?

Work with your doctor to make a plan that keeps your baby healthy, happy, and safe.

Here are some steps you can take:

  • Be sure to go to all follow-up appointments.
  • Learn how to do CPR and rescue breathing. These are important skills for parents and caregivers at any time, not just after a BRUE. To find a CPR course near you, call your local hospital or the local branch of the Red Cross or the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.
  • Always put your baby to sleep on their back, not on their side or tummy. Put your baby in a crib or bassinet in your bedroom for the first 6 months. Keep soft items like stuffed animals, pillows, and blankets out of the crib. Use a firm mattress with a fitted sheet. Don't use sleep positioners or bumper pads.
  • Make sure that your baby gets regular checkups and recommended vaccines to protect against serious illness.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your baby may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your baby has blue lips.
  • Your baby turns blue or pale around the face, or body.
  • Your baby is stiff or limp and floppy.
  • Your baby doesn't respond at all to being held, touched, or talked to.
  • Your baby is hard to wake up.
  • Your baby has severe trouble breathing. The nostrils flare and the belly moves in and out with every breath.

Call your doctor or Health Link (811) or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby has trouble breathing. For example, breathing is faster or slower than usual.
  • Your baby has a temperature over 38°C (100.4°F).
  • Your baby vomits repeatedly or has diarrhea.
  • Your baby seems too sleepy or sick.
  • Your baby has a new rash.
  • Your baby isn't feeding well.
  • Your baby is making fewer wet diapers than expected.
  • Your baby cries in a strange way or for an unusually long time.

For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.