Phone

Drugs

Side Effects
Serious

Wheezing, tightness in the chest, and breathing difficulty (especially among patients with asthma); spitting up of blood. Contact your doctor immediately if any such symptoms arise.
Common

Acetylcysteine does not commonly cause side effects.
Less Common

Clammy skin, fever, increased mucus production in the lungs, pain or irritation around the mouth or throat, nausea and vomiting, runny nose, drowsiness. Such symptoms are likely to diminish as your body adjusts to the medication.
Acetylcysteine


Drug Class:
Decongestant/cough drug

Available OTC?: No

Available Generic?: Yes


Available In
Why Prescribed
How It Works
Range and Frequency
Onset of Effect
Duration of Action
Dietary Advice
Storage
Missed Dose
Stopping the Drug
Prolonged Use
Over 60
Driving and Hazardous Work
Alcohol
Pregnancy
Breast Feeding
Infants and Children
Special Concerns
Overdose Symptoms
What to Do
Drug Interactions
Food Interactions
Disease Interactions


Available In
Inhalant solution

Why Prescribed
To relieve congestion and make breathing easier in lung conditions associated with the production of large amounts of thick mucus, such as bronchiectasis (irreversible destruction of the bronchial walls), bronchitis, pneumonia, and cystic fibrosis. It may also be used in patients who have undergone tracheostomy (surgical opening in the neck to establish an airway when the throat is obstructed), or who have a collapsed lobe of the lung due to a plug of mucus blocking an airway.

How It Works
Acetylcysteine liquefies and thins mucus so that it may be coughed up (or removed with suction if necessary).

Range and Frequency
3 to 5 ml of 20% solution, or 6 to 10 ml of 10% solution by nebulizer every two to six hours. (The medicine may be inhaled through a face mask, mouthpiece, or via tracheostomy.) Or, 1 to 2 ml of 10% or 20% solution placed directly into the trachea via catheter every hour. The dosage differs from patient to patient; follow your doctor's directions carefully.

Onset of Effect
Within one minute.

Duration of Action
Up to several hours.

Dietary Advice
This drug should not be taken with meals. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Storage
Before opening, store container away from heat and direct light. After opening, store it in the refrigerator, but do not allow it to freeze. Discard the container 96 hours after opening.

Missed Dose
Take it as soon as you remember. Take the rest of the day's doses at evenly spaced intervals.

Stopping the Drug
The decision to stop taking the drug should be made by your doctor.

Prolonged Use
No special problems are expected.

Over 60
No special problems are expected.

Driving and Hazardous Work
Be cautious if acetylcysteine makes you drowsy.

Alcohol
Alcohol intake should be limited.

Pregnancy
The effects of acetylcysteine on the human fetus have not been documented; consult your doctor or OB/GYN for specific advice if your are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Breast Feeding
It is not known whether acetylcysteine passes into breast milk; problems have not been documented. Consult your doctor for specific advice before deciding to nurse while using this drug.

Infants and Children
No special problems are expected.

Special Concerns
Be sure to tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to acetylcysteine, or if you are allergic to any other substances including foods, preservatives, latex, or dyes. If you use a nebulizer to administer the medication, it should be cleaned immediately after use, since residues of the medicine can be sticky and may clog the apparatus. Nebulized solution may be inhaled directly from the nebulizer, or the nebulizer may be fitted with a plastic face mask or mouthpiece. When acetylcysteine is used by patients with asthma or other types of hypersensitivity of the airways, a bronchodilator should be administered first to prevent bronchospasm.

Overdose Symptoms
Unusual breathing difficulties.

What to Do
Call your doctor, emergency medical services (EMS), or local hospital immediately.

Drug Interactions
Simultaneous use of acetylcysteine with tetracycline, erythromycin, lactobionate, amphotericin B, ampicillin, chymotrypsin, or hydrogen peroxide in the same solution should be avoided. Such medications should be taken at another time.

Food Interactions
No known food interactions.

Disease Interactions
Acetylcysteine can aggravate asthma or other respiratory diseases.

Date Published: 04/13/2005
Previous  |  Next
> Printer-friendly Version