Anticholinergics for Cystic Fibrosis

Search Knowledgebase

Anticholinergics for Cystic Fibrosis


Generic NameBrand Name
ipratropium bromideAtrovent

How It Works

Ipratropium helps keep the tubes in the lungs (bronchial tubes) from narrowing.

Anticholinergics begin to work within 15 minutes. They work best after 1 to 2 hours, usually last 3 to 4 hours, and sometimes last up to 6 hours. Anticholinergic medicines can be taken by using an inhaler or a nebulizer.

Why It Is Used

Anticholinergics are sometimes used along with bronchodilators to improve breathing when inflammation or lots of mucus in the lungs makes it hard to breathe.

How Well It Works

Anticholinergics do not work for all people who have cystic fibrosis. More research is needed to know just how well they work for people who have cystic fibrosis.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Side effects are rare with inhaled ipratropium but can include:

  • A dry mouth.
  • Increased wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe).

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

If you have the eye disease glaucoma, talk with an eye doctor before you start taking anticholinergics. People who have glaucoma may need to be watched more closely while they are taking these medicines.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Susanna McColley, MD - Pediatric Pulmonology
Last Revised August 12, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.