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Acetylcysteine

What Is Acetylcysteine?

Acetylcysteine is a drug that breaks down mucus, the substance that lubricates many parts of the body such as the mouth, throat, and lungs.

Acetylcysteine inhalation is used to thin the mucus in people with certain lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis, bysema, bronchitis, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. Acetylcysteine inhalation is also used during surgery or anesthesia, and to prepare the throat or lungs for a medical test.

Why is this medication prescribed?

Acetylcysteine inhalation is used along with other treatments to relieve chest congestion due to thick or abnormal mucous secretions in people with lung conditions including asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and cystic fibrosis (an inborn disease that causes problems with breathing, digestion, and reproduction). Acetylcysteine is in a class of medications called mucolytic agents. It works by thinning the mucus in the air passages to make it easier to cough up the mucus and clear the airways.

How should this medicine be used?

Acetylcysteine comes as a solution (liquid) and concentrated solution to inhale by mouth using a nebulizer (machine that turns medication into a mist that can be inhaled). When using a nebulizer, it is usually used 3 to 4 times a day. When given by other methods, acetylcysteine should be used as directed. Use acetylcysteine at around the same times every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Use acetylcysteine exactly as directed. Do not use more or less of it or use it more often than prescribed by your doctor. Only mix acetylcysteine with other medications if instructed to do so by your doctor.

The concentrated solution of acetylcysteine should be mixed with normal saline or sterile water and used within an hour.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Acetylcysteine may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • runny nose
  • swelling of the inside of the mouth
  • throat irritation
  • drowsiness
  • cool, moist skin
  • chest tightness
  • wheezing
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • coughing up blood
  • hives
  • rash
  • itching

Acetylcysteine Dosage

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not use this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Do not use acetylcysteine inhalation at home if you do not fully understand all instructions that are specific to your use of this medicine.

Acetylcysteine inhalation solution can be inhaled directly from the nebulizer or with a face mask, mouth piece, tent, or intermittent positive pressure breathing (IPPB) machine.

Use only the inhaler device provided with your medicine or you may not get the correct dose.

Do not place this medicine directly into a heated nebulizer medicine chamber.

Do not mix your dose of acetylcysteine inhalation until you are ready to use the medicine. Diluted acetylcysteine inhalation must be used within 1 hour of mixing.

Overdose

If someone has overdosed and has serious symptoms such as passing out or trouble breathing, call 911. Otherwise, call a poison control center right away. US residents can call their local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Canada residents can call a provincial poison control center.

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