Using Hydrocortisone Cream: Uses, Dosage, and Side Effects

Hydrocortisone cream addresses various skin problems that cause redness, swelling, minor skin irritations, external feminine itching, external anal itching, and discomfort. It contains hydrocortisone, a steroid hormone with anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties produced by the adrenal gland.

In addition to reducing swelling and inflammation in the affected area, this medication also suppresses the immune system reaction that contributes to many skin issues. Hydrocortisone reduces rashes, itching, swelling, and redness brought on by skin diseases, including eczema, thereby reducing skin irritation. It is a member of a class of drugs known as topical steroids.

The strength of hydrocortisone topical ranges from 0.5% to 2.5%. The severity of your condition and the region of the body being treated will determine the cream’s strength. A lower-strength cream may be adequate for minor skin irritation, whereas a higher-strength cream may be required for more serious conditions.

The ability to quickly relieve symptoms like itching and inflammation is one of the advantages of hydrocortisone. Although it is usually safe on the skin, it should never be applied to open wounds or the face unless specifically instructed by a medical expert.

As it is only intended for external use, hydrocortisone cream is applied to temporarily relieve skin infection from various allergic reactions and inflammatory skin conditions. It can also be combined with antimicrobials to treat bacterial or fungal skin infections. 

Who Can Use Hydrocortisone Cream?

Although most people can safely use hydrocortisone cream, not everyone may be a good candidate. Most people and kids 10 years and older can use prescribed hydrocortisone skin treatments. However, children under 10 should not receive hydrocortisone skin remedies unless a doctor prescribes them.

Before using the cream, it is crucial to disclose any allergies or underlying health issues to your doctor. It is also important to prevent applying hydrocortisone cream to open sores, infections, or skin regions that are infected or blistered.

Following the directions on the packaging is crucial, as using hydrocortisone cream for longer than advised can have negative adverse effects like skin thinning.

Some individuals should not use hydrocortisone. Before beginning the medication, let your pharmacy or doctor know if you have ever experienced an allergic reaction to hydrocortisone or any other medication, have a skin or eye infection, are attempting to get pregnant, are pregnant, or are nursing.

Self-administration of hydrocortisone is not advised; it must be done with a doctor’s guidance or under the direction of a qualified healthcare provider. Typically, it is injected directly into a vein, into a muscle, a joint, an infusion, or into the area being treated.

Your doctor will choose the dosage based on your body weight, the disease you are being treated for, and other factors. To benefit the most from hydrocortisone, strictly follow your doctor’s instructions.

How to Use Hydrocortisone Cream?

This medicine is strictly for external use. Do not consume orally. Follow your doctor’s or pharmacist’s recommendations or the information leaflet that comes with the cream before applying hydrocortisone to your skin.

Before and following use, wash your hands. Only cleanse your hands before use if you are treating your hands. Avoid getting this medicine in your eyes. If you do, wash it thoroughly with cold tap water. Use it as instructed on the package every day at the same time.

Never use it more frequently than instructed or for a longer length of time than recommended by your doctor. Most individuals require one to two daily applications of the hydrocortisone product.

If you use it twice daily, attempt to wait 8 to 12 hours before applying more. You may need to use fingertip measures to determine how much cream or ointment to apply. Apply a thin film over the irritated skin.

hydrocortisone cream
By iqbalburil/ Pixabay Copyright 2023

The appropriate quantity for infants and young children varies by age. You can get advice from your child’s doctor or pharmacy. Unless specifically instructed to do so by your doctor, avoid using this medication to treat diaper rash. Avoid using tight-fitting diapers or plastic pants when applying this medication to the diaper area. As a result, there may be a greater chance that harmful effects will occur from the medicine as it passes through the skin.

For itching on the external genital area, completely rinse the region after washing it with warm water and mild soap. Gently dry the affected area by patting or blotting it with toilet tissue or a soft cloth. Never use fingers, a mechanical device, or an applicator to apply this product to the rectum.

Use this product as your doctor instructs, typically 2 to 4 times daily or after each bowel movement. Your medical history and treatment reaction will determine your dosage. For maximum advantage, take this medication regularly. Use it daily at the same time to make it easier to recall.

Side Effects

Treatments with low doses of hydrocortisone are usually safe. When used for less than four weeks, most users report no adverse side effects afterward. After applying hydrocortisone to their skin, some people experience a brief burning or stinging sensation, but this stops after a few days of usage.

Suppose you apply hydrocortisone to a large skin patch for an extended period or use a potent hydrocortisone treatment (such as hydrocortisone butyrate). In that case, you run a higher risk of experiencing a severe side effect.

The treated area may become thinner or develop stretchmarks if you use hydrocortisone for a prolonged period. Stretchmarks are usually irreversible, but they typically disappear with time.

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Rectal bleeding occurs. Also, look out for changes in skin color, skin redness, tenderness, pus, or other infection-related symptoms
  • Extreme upset stomach or vomiting, severe dizziness or fainting, muscular weakness, extreme fatigue, mood swings, lack of appetite, and weight loss
hydrocortisone cream
By derneuemann/ Pixabay Copyright 2023
  • Feeling confused, sleepy, more hungover or thirsty than normal, peeing more frequently, experiencing hot flushes, trouble breathing, breathing rapidly, or having a fruity breath
  • Delayed weight gain in your upper back, as well as a “moon face” – a plump, rounded face that develops gradually, which may be a symptom of Cushing’s syndrome
  • Muscle weakness, cramps, or an increase in the rate of your heartbeat
  • Severe back pain, nausea, or stomach pain may be an indication that your pancreas is malfunctioning
  • Nausea, diarrhea, tiredness, mood changes, vaginal discharge

Interaction with Other Drugs

Applying hydrocortisone cream to irritated skin and other lotions or ointments, such as moisturizers, is not advised. List every medicine, herbal supplement, over-the-counter drug, and dietary supplement you take before you visit the doctor.

Tell your doctor if you use illegal substances, drink alcohol, or smoke. The products you use could interfere with your medicine.

Try to use different skin products at different times of the day. After applying hydrocortisone, wait at least 10 minutes before applying a covering such as a bandage or plaster. Other corticosteroids/immunosuppressants, such as prednisone and other rectal products, are a few items that may interfere with the side effects of this medicine.

Allergic Reactions

An allergic reaction is extremely uncommon, but if it does occur, seek emergency medical help immediately. Call 911 if someone has overdosed and shows severe symptoms like passing out or having difficulty breathing. Otherwise, immediately dial the nearest poison control center.

Contact your local poison control center if:

  • You experience a skin rash that includes itchy, red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin
  • Wheezing, tightness in the chest or neck
  • Difficulty speaking or breathing
  • Swelling of the mouth, cheeks, lips, tongue, or throat

You might be experiencing a severe allergic response and require emergency hospital care.


Unless it is almost time for the next dose, use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Do not take the missed dose in that instance. At the scheduled time, take your next dosage. Do not increase the dosage to make up for the missed dosage.

Store between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius at ambient temperature. (59 and 86 degrees F). Avoid freezing. If a prescription has passed the expiration date, throw it away. Avoid flushing or pouring medicines down the drain. Properly dispose of this product when it is no longer required or has expired.

Most pharmaceutical containers, including those for eye drops, creams, patches, inhalers, and weekly pill minders, are not child-resistant and are thus readily opened by young children. Always lock safety caps and promptly stash medication up and away from young children where it is out of their sight and reach to prevent poisoning.

You may have trouble fighting off infections if you take hydrocortisone. Infection-related symptoms like a fever or sore throat should be reported to your doctor.

Without consulting your doctor first, do not suddenly stop taking hydrocortisone, as this could make your symptoms worse.

There are several ways for this to happen, including using the cream excessively or applying it too frequently or heavily. All of these may increase the possibility of adverse outcomes.

In a small percentage of cases, excessive use of hydrocortisone cream can cause detrimental side effects, such as topical steroid withdrawal. (TSW). TSW is a reaction that might occur when you cease using a steroid drug quickly after becoming accustomed to it. Several uncomfortable symptoms may follow from this. Due to having particularly sensitive skin, it might occasionally make moving around difficult.

It is advised to taper off your medicine to prevent TSW. Tapering refers to gradually stopping the medication’s use over time. You should refrain from quitting the drug suddenly. There are various strategies for tapering off a drug. On how to accomplish this, your healthcare provider will instruct you. For instance, they might decrease your dosage, reduce your frequency of the drug, or both.

Pregnancy or Breastfeeding

You can use pharmacy-purchased hydrocortisone lotions during pregnancy or while you’re nursing. Wash off any cream you’ve applied to your breasts before giving breast milk to your infant as a precaution.

You may absorb more if you use a lot of hydrocortisone or apply the medication to thinner skin areas, such as the face, groin, or underarms. Hydrocortisone is unlikely to harm your unborn child if you use it sparingly and only as prescribed by your healthcare professional.

Hydrocortisone cream
By Marncom/ Pixabay Copyright 2023

If you apply hydrocortisone to damaged skin, such as an open wound, or if you wrap the treated area in a bandage or dressing, your body will absorb the medication more quickly. Unless specifically instructed otherwise by your healthcare professional, you should generally avoid covering a region where you have administered hydrocortisone.

The use of hydrocortisone butyrate during pregnancy or breastfeeding is typically not advised. While expecting or nursing, your doctor recommends only hydrocortisone butyrate treatment if the advantages outweigh the risks. Use this treatment only if your doctor, an expert in skin problems, prescribes it and oversees your course of treatment.

When mothers used topical corticosteroids during the first trimester of pregnancy, one small research found a greater rate of kids born with orofacial clefts, such as cleft lip or palate. However, orofacial clefts and topical corticosteroids have not been linked in any other research. 

Bottom Line

Hydrocortisone cream is a topical medication that helps treat various skin infections. In addition to suppressing the immune system’s response, it reduces swelling and inflammatory reactions in the affected region.

It should only be used as instructed and for the recommended amount of time, as using it longer than necessary may have negative adverse side effects. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions about taking this medicine. Contact the doctor immediately if you face any medical problems.

Last Updated on December 26, 2023 by