What is hydrocortisone cream?

Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid that is available as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Hydrocortisone can address skin problems, such as eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, insect bites, diaper rash, neurodermatitis and other conditions.
Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid that is available as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Hydrocortisone can address skin problems, such as eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, insect bites, diaper rash, neurodermatitis and other conditions.

Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid that is available as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Its uses are

  • Temporarily treating external itching associated with minor skin irritation, inflammation and rashes.
  • Hydrocortisone can also be the only ingredient in a topical pain reliever (i.e., creams and ointments used on the body’s surface).
  • It can be found as a single active ingredient in topical medicines that are designed to treat anal itching and hemorrhoids.
  • Sometimes, hydrocortisone is added with antibacterial ingredients (germicidal chemicals) to treat skin problems caused by bacteria or fungal infections.
  • Hydrocortisone is used alone or in combination with other drugs to prevent and treat symptoms of inflammation of the skin, organs, muscles and joints, which could be allergies, asthma, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
  • It can be used as an ointment for insect bites.

Hydrocortisone can address skin problems, such as

  • Eczema: It is a condition that causes inflamed, itchy, cracked and rough skin.
  • Psoriasis: It is a skin disease that causes red, itchy, scaly patches, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp.
  • Contact dermatitis: It is a condition that makes skin red or inflamed after contact with an allergen or an irritant e.g., a watch strap.
  • Insect bites
  • Diaper rash
  • Neurodermatitis: It is a skin condition characterized by severe itching or scaling. It typically appears on the neck, wrists, forearms, legs or anal region.

Hydrocortisone may be prescribed by the doctor to relieve itching, redness, dryness, crusting, scaling, inflammation and discomfort caused by various skin conditions or for swelling and discomfort caused by hemorrhoids and other rectal problems.

How do hydrocortisone cream and ointment work?

Hydrocortisone acts on skin cells to stop the release of inflammatory substances. This reduces swelling, redness and itching, so it helps prevent scratching that can further irritate the skin. Hydrocortisone is a mild corticosteroid that can be applied to the skin to treat a wide variety of inflammatory reactions, such as those to plants, insect bites, jewelry, toiletries, deodorants, soaps and detergents.

Keys facts for hydrocortisone cream/ointment

  • It should not be used on the face unless the doctor has prescribed it.
  • You can buy hydrocortisone acetate 1% cream at a pharmacy. It is available either as a brand or a generic product. These creams should not be used for longer than a week.
  • Hydrocortisone cream is more suitable for moist areas of the skin, whereas the thicker, greasier ointment is more suitable for dry or scaly areas of the skin.
  • Do not use hydrocortisone cream or ointment as a moisturizer.

Side effects of hydrocortisone cream

Redness, burning or itching at the application site may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, contact a doctor or pharmacist promptly. Long-term use may cause thinning of the skin. It may also make the area prone to fungal infections. If the doctor has told you to use this medication, it must be because the benefits are greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

Rarely, this medication may be absorbed into the bloodstream. This can lead to side effects caused by too much corticosteroid. These side effects are more likely to appear in children and in people who are using this medication for a long time. Tell the doctor right away if any of the following side effects occur

  • Vision problems
  • Signs of serious infection (e.g., fever, persistent sore throat)

A serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, seek immediate medical attention if any of the following symptoms of a serious allergic reaction appear

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Medically Reviewed on 3/18/2021
References
Medscape Medical Reference