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Carbocisteine helps to make it easier to cough up sputum.

It works best when it is taken regularly.

There are different liquid medicines available for adults and children. Be aware of the new 'double-strength' medicine for children, especially if you are used to giving the old 'low-strength' children's medicine. Measure the dose carefully using the oral syringe provided.

Side-effects with carbocisteine occur only rarely.

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About carbocisteine

Type of medicine

A mucolytic

Used for

To help clear sputum in respiratory disease associated with a productive cough

Also called

Carbocysteine (in US); Mucodyne®

Available as

Capsules, oral liquid medicine for adults, oral liquid medicine for children (aged 2-12 years), oral liquid medicine for adults in sachets

Mucolytic medicines, such as carbocisteine, can be helpful for people with a long-term respiratory disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Carbocisteine works by making phlegm (mucus) less thick and sticky, and therefore easier to cough up. It may also have a knock-on effect of making it harder for germs (bacteria) to cause chest infections.

It needs to be taken regularly, and is most likely to help if you have moderate or severe COPD and have frequent or bad flare-ups.

Before taking carbocisteine

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you (or your child) start taking carbocisteine it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you have ever had a stomach ulcer.

  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.

  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.

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How to take carbocisteine

  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The manufacturer's leaflet will give you more information about carbocisteine and a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.

  • Take carbocisteine exactly as your doctor tells you to. Your dose will be printed on the label of the pack to remind you. As a guide:

    • The usual dose for an adult is: two 375 mg capsules three times a day, reduced when symptoms improve to one 375 mg capsule four times daily.

    • If you have been prescribed the oral liquid medicine, the usual dose for adults is 15 ml (750 mg) three times a day, reduced when symptoms improve to 10 ml (500 mg) three times a day.

    • If you have been prescribed the oral liquid medicine in sachets, the usual dose is one sachet three times a day, reduced when symptoms improve to one sachet twice a day.

  • Be aware of the new 'double-strength' medicine for children, especially if you are used to giving the old 'low-strength' children's medicine.

    • The usual dose for a child aged 5-12 years is: 5 ml (250 mg) three times daily.

    • The usual dose for a child aged 2-5 years is: 1.25-2.5 ml (62.5-125 mg) four times daily.

    • Measure your child's dose carefully, using the oral syringe provided.

  • Carbocisteine works best when it is taken regularly. Try to take your doses at the same times of day each day, as this will help you to remember to take your doses regularly. It is not important whether you take carbocisteine before or after food.

  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the forgotten dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.

Getting the most from your treatment

  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress, as your doctor will want to check to make sure that carbocisteine is working well for you.

  • People with respiratory disease who exercise regularly tend to have improved breathing. Taking a daily walk is a good start if you are not used to exercise. Try to increase the level of your activity over time if you are able.

  • If you are overweight it can make breathlessness worse. Ask a dietician to give you advice on healthy eating and how to lose weight.

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Can carbocisteine cause problems?

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. Side-effects of carbocisteine occur only rarely. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine.

Rare carbocisteine side-effects - these affect fewer than 1 in 1,000 people

What can I do if I experience this?

Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract (blood in vomit or black stools)

Stop taking carbocisteine and let your doctor know straightaway

Skin rash or blistering of the skin, swelling of the face or lips

Stop taking carbocisteine and let your doctor know straightaway

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

How to store carbocisteine

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.

  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Important information about all medicines

Important information about all medicines

If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Report side effects to a medicine or vaccine

If you experience side effects, you can report them online through the Yellow Card website.

Further reading and references

Article history

The information on this page is written and peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

  • Next review due: 26 Jan 2026
  • 27 Jan 2023 | Latest version

    Last updated by

    Michael Stewart, MRPharmS

    Peer reviewed by

    Sid Dajani
  • 26 Jan 2011 | Originally published

    Authored by:

    Helen Allen
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