Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid available in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that temporarily relieve external itching associated with minor skin irritations, inflammation, and rashes. It may be written as hydrocortisone or hydrocortisone acetate, but these are different forms of the same active ingredient. Hydrocortisone can also be the only ingredient in a topical pain reliever (i.e., creams and ointments used on the body’s surface) and it can be found in single active ingredient topical medicines that are also labeled to treat anal itching.
Hydrocortisone is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe and effective when used according to the Drug Facts label directions. Topical pain relievers containing hydrocortisone should only be applied to the outer surface of the body. Parents and other caregivers should be aware that these medicines are not intended to treat diaper rash.