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.

  • You are currently using another medicine containing hydrocortisone.
  • You have a vaginal discharge.
  • Your condition gets worse or if your symptoms last for more than seven days or clear up and return again within a few days.
  • Rectal bleeding occurs.
  • You accidentally swallow the medicine. Immediately contact a healthcare provider or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.
  • Do not use an OTC topical pain reliever containing hydrocortisone on a child with diaper rash. Talk to a healthcare provider for appropriate treatments.
  • Do not use an OTC topical pain reliever containing hydrocortisone to treat external anal itching on a child under the age of 12. Consult a healthcare provider.
  • OTC topical pain relievers may be used to treat rashes and other minor skin irritations on children age 2 and older.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider before using on a child under the age of 2.
  • Click here for more information on giving OTCs to children.