Hydrocortisone (Topical)


Hydrocortisone is considered by some to be the most important glucocorticoid in human life, as it is paramount to the regulation and support of cardiovascular, immunologic, metabolic and homeostatic processes. Available in a synthesized topical format, application of Hydrocortisone is used in the treatment of symptoms that result in hypersensitive reactions of many kinds. This medication is classified as a steroid hormone. It bonds with the receptor known as cortisol and triggers a higher response to the area it is applied to as a topical cream or ointment.

The more familiar marketing names of Hydrocortisone will be recognized by many patients. In the US alone, it is sold as:

  • Ala-Scalp HP
  • Ala-Cort
  • Aquanil HC
  • Anusol HC
  • Caldecort
  • Beta HC
  • Cortaid
  • Cetacort
  • Corticool Maximum Strength
  • Corticaine
  • Cotacort
  • Cortizone-5, Cortisone-10
  • Dermarest
  • Delacort
  • Dermtex-HC
  • Dermasorb HC Complete Kit
  • Hydrozone Plus
  • Gly-Cort
  • Instacort-10
  • Hytone
  • IvyStat
  • Ivy Soothe
  • Kericort 10
  • Keratol HC
  • Locoid
  • Lacticare-HC
  • Medi-Cortisone Maximum Strength
  • Locoid Lipocream
  • Mycin Scalp
  • Microcort
  • NuCort
  • Neutrogena TScalp
  • Nutracort
  • Nupercainal HC
  • Pediaderm HC Kit
  • Pandel
  • Proctocream-HC
  • Preparation H Hydrocortisone
  • Recort Plus
  • Proctosol-HC
  • Scalacort
  • Sarnol-HC Maximum Strength
  • Summers Eve Specialcare
  • Scalpcort
  • Therasoft Anti-Itch Dermatitis
  • Texacort
  • Westcort
  • U-Cort

Hydrocortisone is used to treat a wide variety of conditions of the skin and scalp and relieves itching, redness, swelling and other uncomfortable symptoms. There are some over the counter forms of Hydrocortisone available, but it is also available by doctor's prescription in a liquid solution, cream, ointment, spray, lotion, liquid soaked pads, gel, foam, kit, paste and stick.

Conditions Treated

Type Of Medicine

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Hydroxycorticosteroid
  • Immunosuppressive agent
  • Steroid

Side Effects

Hydrocortisone topical formats may cause some unwanted effects on health that should be reported to your physician immediately if they occur. If you notice the following symptoms, get in touch with your health care professional right away:

  • Dry, flaking skin
  • Blisters on skin
  • Burning, crusted skin
  • Irritation at the application site
  • Scaly, red, sore or swollen, itchy skin
  • Scaling or red skin around the mouth area
  • Skin that bruises easily, especially on face or between fingers
  • Weak, wasted, thin skin

Other unwanted health effects, though annoying or bothersome, are not medical emergencies. However, they should also be communicated to your physician if you experience them. These include:

  • Pimples or acne
  • Skin that itches or burns
  • Tiny red blisters on skin
  • Itchy, burning pain or pus at hair roots
  • Growth of hair on back, forehead, legs or arms
  • Changes to skin color
  • Lines appearing purplish-red on face, groin, arms, trunk or legs
  • Skin softens or weakens

Other patients could experience unwanted health effects that aren't listed here. If you have any changes to your health after applying Hydrocortisone, notify your doctor right away.


Your prescription or the instructions on the over the counter package will specify how much Hydrocortisone you should use, how often and for what period of time. Do not change this written instruction in any way without your doctor's specific permission. Increasing the amount, duration or frequency of application of Hydrocortisone will not increase how effective it is on your condition, but may increase your risk of suffering unwanted health effects.

Before you use Hydrocortisone, wash your hands with soap and water to make sure they are clean. Apply a thin layer of medication in the amount indicated (for example, pea sized) to the area that is affected. Rub in the medication gently until it is absorbed by the skin. If you are using a lotion form of Hydrocortisone, you will be instructed to gently shake the bottle well before applying.

Skin that has had Hydrocortisone applied to it should not be bandaged or wrapped in any way, unless you are specifically directed to do so by your physician. Use loose-fitting clothing or diapers on infants who have Hydrocortisone applied to diapered areas.

For skin that itches, appears red or is swollen:

  • Creams'Adults and children, apply Hydrocortisone two or three times per day
  • Lotions' Adults and children, apply Hydrocortisone two to four times per day
  • Ointments' Adults and children, apply Hydrocortisone three or four times per day
  • Liquid solutions'Adults and children, apply Hydrocortisone three or four times per day

Missing a dose of Hydrocortisone should not prompt you to double your dosage to make up for the missing dose. Skip the missing dose if it is nearly time for your next one and get back on your regular dosing schedule as soon as possible. Contact your physician if you miss a dose of Hydrocortisone and aren't sure what action to take.


Hypersensitivity to other medications or to Hydrocortisone should be communicated to your doctor before you are treated with this medication. You should also inform your doctor if you are sensitive to any animals, foods, dyes, perfumes or preservatives in case of adverse reactions to this medication or the form it comes in, which occasionally contains these ingredients.

Some medications are safe when used together and can interact with each other positively for an overall health benefit to the patient. Other medications should not be used together, as they may limit each other's effectiveness or give the patient increased risks of adverse health effects. To prevent any dangerous situations or the ineffective use of Hydrocortisone, inform your physician of all medications you are taking and include any non-prescription, herbal, vitamin and holistic remedies you use.

Discuss the use of Hydrocortisone with the consumption of alcoholic beverages or use of tobacco products and the ingestion of certain foods. Your physician will advise you on any substances to avoid while being treated with this medication.

Certain diseases could interact poorly with the treatment of Hydrocortisone and should be pointed out to your doctor, along with your full medical history. Specifically, your doctor will want to know if you have been diagnosed with:

  • Diabetes
  • Cushing's disease
  • Adrenal gland disorders
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hypertension, intracranial
  • Skin infections close to application site
  • Broken, sore or injured skin at the application site


Expect your doctor to want to see you for regular monitoring of your condition while you are being treated with Hydrocortisone. These visits are important to ensure that the medication is working for you and is not giving you any unwanted effects on your health or wellbeing. If your symptoms do not improve after you've used Hydrocortisone for a few days, check in with your physician to determine if you should continue treatment as prescribed or if the prescription should be altered or changed.

Use of Hydrocortisone for a prolonged period of time or using too much of it could affect your adrenal glands. Children are at a higher risk for symptoms of this unwanted effect. Be on the lookout for alterations in your vision that make things seem blurry, dizzy spells, fainting, rapid or irregular heart rhythm, increased urination or thirst, irritable mood swings or fatigue and weakness that is unusual or unexplained. Notify your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.

Discontinue use and notify your doctor if you or the child or other patient you care for has signs of irritation at the site of application of Hydrocortisone. These could include itching, skin rashes, stinging, burning, irritation or swelling on the skin.

Caution should be observed with use of Hydrocortisone on pediatric patients, as they may be sensitive to certain toxic properties of this drug. Studies to date have not provided data that would suggest there is a limit to the usefulness of Hydrocortisone application on children, but children may absorb more of the medication than adult patients do. Follow prescribed amounts and frequencies when using this medication on a child. Parents should be familiar with the dosage as written for their children and make sure it is applied safely.

With regard to the geriatric population, no studies have been performed that would point to data that limits the usefulness or heightens the risk of the use of Hydrocortisone on older patients.

No studies on pregnant women have been performed that would suggest Hydrocortisone should not be used on this group; however, it is recommended that a low dosage and frequency of the medication be prescribed and that it should only be done if absolutely necessary to pregnant women.

Hydrocortisone may or may not have adverse effects on infants of women who are breastfeeding and using the medication at the same time. Caution is advised when prescribing this medication to lactating women.


Hydrocortisone is available over the counter and through a doctor's prescription. It should be used only as directed. Keep this and other medicines out of sight and reach of children as a precaution. Hydrocortisone should be kept in its original, labeled container at room temperature and not exposed to heat, moisture or direct light. Do not allow Hydrocortisone to freeze.

Outdated or unused Hydrocortisone should be disposed of through proper disposal methods on the advice of your health care professional or pharmacist.


Hydrocortisone (topical route) is available under many brands and formulations for use on inflammation, irritation and redness caused by conditions ranging from diaper rash to rheumatoid arthritis. A synthetic form of one of the most important compounds found in the human body, by applying a topical solution, lotion or cream, a patient can concentrate the benefits of this compound to the site that is inflamed to ease their symptoms.

Hydrocortisone topical medications are safe to use for adults, older patients and, with adjustment to dosage amounts, most children. Applied two or three times per day to the affected site, patients are urged to apply Hydrocortisone to a specific schedule and not miss any doses. Regular checks on your condition will be performed in your doctor's office. Alert your physician if you have any adverse changes to your health condition since you've been using Hydrocortisone.

This medication will come with a patient informational leaflet that you should review and understand. Ask any questions you have of your doctor or of your pharmacist so that you are clear on the risks and uses of Hydrocortisone before you begin applying this medication. Patients should not increase dosage amount, frequency or duration without checking with their physician. Those who are sensitive to the medication, absorb it at a higher rate than normal or those who are on a lengthy dosing schedule should be on the lookout for adrenal gland issues. Symptoms include blurry vision, fainting, irritability, heart rhythm changes, increased urination or fatigue and should be communicated to your doctor immediately.

Patients who have irritation or sensitivity in any way at the application site should discontinue use of Hydrocortisone application and check in with their health care provider for further instructions. Otherwise, continue to follow through on your prescription exactly as written and follow up with your scheduled appointments to make sure your condition will heal with the help of Hydrocortisone.

Last Reviewed:
March 26, 2018
Last Updated:
April 16, 2018
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