Hydrocortisone (hydrocortisone acetate)

What is hydrocortisone?

Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid available in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that temporarily relieves external itching associated with minor skin irritations, 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) and it can be found in single active ingredient topical medicines that are also labeled to treat anal itching. These products are for external use only and you should avoid getting the product into your eyes.

What is hydrocortisone used to treat?

  • Itiching
  • Skin irritations
  • Inflammation
  • Rashes
Common brands containing hydrocortisone:
  • Cortaid
  • Cortizone 10
  • Dermarest
  • Itch-X
  • Preparation H
  • Tucks
  • Store Brands (ex. Walmart’s “Equate” store brand or CVS Health store brand)

How much hydrocortisone can you take?

Different types of products containing this active ingredient have different strengths. That’s why it is always important to read and follow the Drug Facts label. Most medicines warn against use of an active ingredient for longer than 7-10 days. Stop and ask a doctor if symptoms persist.

Safety guide for hydrocortisone

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.

Ask a healthcare provider before use if:

  • You are currently using another medicine containing hydrocortisone.
  • Before using on a child under 2 years old.

Do not use if:

  • You have vaginal discharge.
  • Do not use an OTC topical pain reliever containing hydrocortisone on a child with diaper rash.
  • Do not use an OTC topical pain reliever containing hydrocortisone to treat external anal itching on a child under the age of 12.
  • Do not use more than the Drug Facts label instructs unless a healthcare provider tells you to.

Stop use and ask a doctor if:

  • 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.

What are the side effects of hydrocortisone?

  • Skin redness, burning, itching, or peeling
  • Thinning of the skin with easy bruising