Hydrocortisone is a well-known topical corticosteroid medication. The substance works for the treatment of a wide range of skin conditions, and can be accessed in different forms, including an ointment, cream, and lotion. More information

A doctor will review your order and write you a prescription, if appropriate. This prescription is then forwarded to a pharmacy. The pharmacy will have your medicine delivered to you within one to three working days. Read more about this process here.

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Hydrocortisone is a popular form of mild corticosteroid that can be applied topically to the skin to treat a range of inflammatory disorders. It can also assist with symptoms like itching and swelling when used correctly.  

What is Hydrocortisone? 

Hydrocortisone is a well-known topical corticosteroid medication. The substance works for the treatment of a wide range of skin conditions, and can be accessed in different forms, including an ointment, cream, and lotion.  

Your doctor or medical consultant will recommend an appropriate type of Hydrocortisone for the condition that you are trying to treat, based on the situation in question, and the area of skin to be treated. Creams are often given for weeping or moist skin, whereas ointments are intended for dry skin and scaly patches.  

Hydrocortisone is a form of corticosteroids. These medications work by reducing the way that the body’s immune system responds to stimulus that cause inflammation. The result is often less pain, itching, and discomfort. Hydrocortisone can also be used as a hormone replacement for people who don’t produce enough cortisol on their own.  

When is ​Hydrocortisone​ used? 

Hydrocortisone is a very common treatment for a variety of health concerns and skin-based problems. The medicine comes in a number of forms, including skin creams that can be applied to the body and scalp. Some kinds of Hydrocortisone can also be given in pill form, injections and more.  

The kind of Hydrocortisone that you are given will be dependent on the health problem that you are trying to address. Topical Hydrocortisone is usually given to treat skin conditions that present with inflammation. These conditions might include bites from insects, exposure to poison oak, dermatitis, eczema, rashes, allergies, and itching.  

Hydrocortisone works by reducing the way that certain substances in the body’s immune system work, therefore diminishing itching and swelling in certain conditions. Hydrocortisone is often recommended as a mild corticosteroid and may be used as a first line of treatment before trying other stronger options.  

How do you use Hydrocortisone? 

Hydrocortisone comes in a wide range of different forms, which means that you could use this substance in different ways depending on what kind of Hydrocortisone you get. Many forms of Hydrocortisone can be purchased without a prescription, while others will need to be recommended by a doctor or medical consultant. Talking to a medical expert will help you to find the kind of Hydrocortisone that is suitable for you.  

Use this medication only on the skin, and make sure that you follow the instructions that come with the patient leaflet in this medication’s packaging. It is not a good idea to use Hydrocortisone on the underarms or face unless you are advised to do so by a doctor. Exposure to Hydrocortisone in some areas of the skin can increase your chances of negative side effects.  

Hydrocortisone topical should be applied directly to the affected area of the skin. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you apply this medication. Make sure that the affected area is also clean and dry before using Hydrocortisone. Tap the area to be treated dry carefully, rather than rubbing, as this could irritate the skin.  

Apply a small amount of this medication to the affected area, creating a thin film, and rub the cream or ointment in carefully. You may be able to use Hydrocortisone several times a day depending on your doctor’s instructions. You should wait a reasonable length of time before applying other lotions or substances to this area after applying Hydrocortisone. Give the medication time to soak in before you go in the bath or shower, and do not wrap the affected area with any bandages or covered.  

After applying Hydrocortisone, wash your hands carefully, unless the hands are the areas that you are treating. Avoid getting this medication in your nose, mouth, or eyes. If you get the substance into any of these areas, rinse them with plenty of water. Make sure that you contact your doctor immediately if irritation occurs when using Hydrocortisone.  

What dosages are there? 

Your doctor or consultant will tell you how often you should use Hydrocortisone, and when to use it. You should only use this medication for the condition that your doctor has approved it for. Using Hydrocortisone and other corticosteroids too often or for the wrong reasons could increase your chances of side effects.  

Do not use Hydrocortisone for longer than recommended by your doctor and avoid using large amount of this cream at once. Using more Hydrocortisone than your doctor or consultant tells you to will not help you get rid of your condition faster, but it could increase your risk of side effects.  

The most common dosage for Hydrocortisone is a small amount of cream or ointment, applied directly to the affected area up to 4 times per day. If your symptoms don’t begin to improve after two weeks of using this medication, or you think that your condition could be getting worse, speak to your doctor or a consultant about alternative options.  

What are the side effects of Hydrocortisone? 

Hydrocortisone is often used as a first line of treatment for many conditions, because many people respond to it positively. However, there is always a chance that you might experience side effects when taking any medication. Remember that your doctor or consultant will have considered these side effects when deciding whether to prescribe Hydrocortisone  

The most common side effects of Hydrocortisone happen when you first begin using the substance, when your skin is still getting used to the medication. Irritation, burning, stinging, and redness at the site of the application may occur initially. Additionally, unusual hair growth or bumps might occur at times. Some people experience acne when using Hydrocortisone.  

If you use Hydrocortisone very regularly, then you may have a higher chance of experiencing more severe side effects such as: 

  • Skin thinning; 
  • Stretch marks; 
  • Changes to the texture or colour of your skin; 
  • Itching or discomfort on the treated area. 

If the treated area begins to bleed when you are using this medication, or any of the other symptoms mentioned above occur, speak to a doctor or medical professional immediately.

It is very unlikely that you will experience a negative allergic reaction to this medication. However, if you do notice any symptoms of an allergic response, stop applying Hydrocortisone and seek medical attention. An allergic reaction might present with symptoms like the presence of a new rash, swelling of the application site, swelling in the tongue and lips, and trouble breathing.  

Some patients having an allergic reaction to Hydrocortisone may also have periods of dizziness. 

This is not a complete list of possible side effects. Speak to a medical professional if you have any concerns when taking Hydrocortisone.  

When shouldn’t you use Hydrocortisone? 

Hydrocortisone may not be the right treatment for some people. Although a lot of people respond well to this medication, you should tell your doctor or pharmacist about any history you have with allergic reactions to Hydrocortisone before using it. It is also worth mentioning any other allergies that you have, as this medication can also include inactive ingredients that may lead to allergic reactions.  

Be careful to answer any questions asked by your doctor or consultant about your condition and medical history truthfully before you begin using Hydrocortisone as this will reduce your risk of dangerous side effects. If you have itching of the female genitals and you also have vaginal discharge, you should not use this medication before speaking to a doctor first.  

Do not use Hydrocortisone when you are treating an area that has an infection. Hydrocortisone and other forms of topical corticosteroid can sometimes make infections worse. Tell your doctor immediately if when using Hydrocortisone your symptoms get worse.  

Children and elderly individuals are more likely to be susceptible to the side effects of taking too much Hydrocortisone or other topical corticosteroid medication. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned about a loss of appetite, changes in urination, or a sudden period of weight loss when using a medication like Hydrocortisone.  

You should only use Hydrocortisone during pregnancy when it is deemed absolutely necessary. Speak about the benefits and possible side effects with your doctor or medical consultant first. It is not certain whether this medication will pass into breast milk. Since other medications can be passed into breast milk when taken by mouth in the corticosteroid family, it is a good idea to speak to your doctor first.  

Does Hydrocortisone interact with other medications? 

Hydrocortisone could interact with other medications that you are using either topically or otherwise. Because of this, it is important to tell your doctor or consultant about any other medications that you are using before you begin using Hydrocortisone. Tell your doctor about all prescription and non-prescription medications that you are using at the same time as Hydrocortisone. Do not take Hydrocortisone with other corticosteroids and steroidal medications unless your doctor tells you to do so. 

Ask your doctor about using Hydrocortisone with other topical medications, and how long you will need to wait before you apply other medications.  

Where can you buy Hydrocortisone? 

Hydrocortisone can be purchased in various forms, online or offline from a reputable pharmacy.  

Can I get Hydrocortisone without a prescription? 

Some forms of Hydrocortisone will require a prescription, while others will not.  


Healthline, Hydrocortisone, Oral Tablet, Accessed 13th of March 2020, retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/hydrocortisone-oral-tablet 

Medicines.org, Hydrocortisone Cream BP 0.5%, Accessed 13th of March 2020, retrieved from: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/5872/smpc 

Nice, BNF, HYDROCORTISONE, retrieved from: https://bnf.nice.org.uk/drug/hydrocortisone.html 

Assessed by:

Dr Imran Malik, General practitioner
Registration number: GMC: 4741365

Dr Imran Malik studied undergraduate medicine at King's College University in Central London and clinical studies at the prestigious King's College Hospital. He graduated with a MBBS degree in 2000 and went on to gain postgraduate memberships with the Royal Society of Medicine and also General Practice in 2006.