Hydrocortisone cream is used for various skin problems which are causing itching, irritation and swelling. Hydrocortisone lotion and hydrocortisone ointment work similarly. They are all topical skin treatments. This means they are applied directly to the skin, rather than taken orally, such as with hydrocortisone tablets. Hydrocortisone creams are generally mild.
Hydrocortisone cream is therefore ideal for helping with various skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and contact dermatitis. It’s also helpful for short-term skin issues such as insect bites and stings, mild skin allergies, prickly heat rash and nappy rash.
How does hydrocortisone cream work?
Hydrocortisone is a type of corticosteroid, or simply ‘steroid’ for short. These shouldn’t be confused with anabolic steroids.
In a cream form, hydrocortisone in small amounts can be applied directly where it is needed on the skin. The amount of hydrocortisone in the cream can vary. In addition, sometimes there are other active ingredients in the hydrocortisone cream, such as antifungals and antimicrobials. This is because irritated skin can become open and susceptible to infection.
Important information about hydrocortisone cream
Hydrocortisone cream can be hugely helpful for many people with skin complaints. There are some basic pieces of information which should guide how you use it:
- Hydrocortisone creams are generally only used in the short-term, either because a skin condition is flaring up, or because of short-term irritation (such as a bite). This means they are usually only used once or twice a day for up to two weeks.
- Generally speaking, hydrocortisone creams should not be used on your face, especially around the eyes. Do not use on sensitive membranes, such as around the genitals or anus.
- It’s usually advised NOT to use hydrocortisone cream for skin problems like acne, rosacea or impetigo.
- Don’t use hydrocortisone cream if the skin is broken or infected.
- Skin creams, like hydrocortisone, can transfer from your skin to bedding, clothes and soft furnishings. This may increase how flammable they are. Take care to wash sheets and clothes regularly.
How to use hydrocortisone cream
Hydrocortisone cream should always be supplied with clear instructions regarding how to apply it. You should follow these instructions carefully and seek further advice from a pharmacist if you need to.
Typically, instructions advise to apply hydrocortisone cream to the affected area once or twice a day for a short period. If the skin is very dry, a hydrocortisone ointment will be a good choice. The amount of cream to use will depend on the size of the area affected but information about this should be included in the instructions.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before applying hydrocortisone cream.
- Dry your hands thoroughly.
- Squeeze out the right amount of cream and then smooth it into the affected area of skin.
- Try to ensure even coverage over all of the irritated or affected areas.
- Take care to avoid any cuts, scratches or broken skin.
- Unless you are treating your hands, wash your hands thoroughly once more.
Side effects of hydrocortisone cream
Hydrocortisone cream is generally pretty mild and as such very few people have side effects, especially if they are only using it for a short period of time. It’s not unusual to experience a stinging or burning sensation for a few seconds when you first start using hydrocortisone cream. Within a few days this should stop.
Long-term widespread use of hydrocortisone creams can lead to thinner skin and permanent changes such as stretchmarks.
·Serious side effects
Serious side effects of hydrocortisone cream are rare. They are more likely if you use it for a prolonged period of time and over a large area. If you experience any of these serious side effects, stop using the cream and get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible:
- Redder and more swollen skin.
- Yellow, white, green or creamy fluid seeping from your skin.
- Severe upset stomach or vomiting.
- Notable dizziness, fainting, extreme fatigue, mood changes, muscle weakness, weight loss or loss of appetite.
- Confusion, sleepiness, increased thirst, increased need to urinate, fruity smelling breath, or hot flushes.
- Depression (including suicidality).
- A puffy rounded face (sometimes called ‘moon face’), unusual weight gain on your abdomen or upper back.
- Muscle cramps, weakness or pain.
- Irregular heartbeats.
Severe allergic reactions to hydrocortisone cream are rare. However, if you experience a worsened skin rash, wheezing, breathlessness or chest/throat tightness, or swelling to the face, throat, lips or tongue, get immediate medical help.
Can anyone use hydrocortisone cream?
Hydrocortisone cream is usually fine for use by adults, as well as teens and children over 10. If you’ve had a previous allergic reaction to hydrocortisone cream, you should avoid it.
Can children use hydrocortisone cream?
Hydrocortisone cream is generally not recommended for children under 10 years unless specifically recommended by a doctor.
Hydrocortisone, not usually in the amounts absorbed through skin creams, can sometimes slow down the growth of children and teenagers. This is rare with hydrocortisone creams, but if you are using the cream long-term, your doctor may wish to monitor your child’s growth.
Can you use hydrocortisone cream whilst pregnant or breastfeeding?
It’s best to consult a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream if you are trying to conceive, are pregnant or breastfeeding. Mild hydrocortisone creams are typically fine. If you use such a cream on your breasts, you should wash your breasts before feeding your baby.
Can I use another skin cream with hydrocortisone cream?
Don’t use hydrocortisone cream at the same time as using other creams such as body lotion or moisturiser, or any other product. Apply the hydrocortisone cream first and then leave at least 15 minutes before using any other cream.
If the affected area of skin needs a dressing, or needs covering, wait at least 15 minutes after applying the hydrocortisone cream. Try to ensure you apply any dressing to healthy skin and outside of where you have applied the cream or it won’t stick effectively.
What should I do if I forget to put on my hydrocortisone cream?
If you forget an application, simply apply it when you remember. Don’t try and double the dose in one application. If there are less than a few hours until you were meant to next apply it, you can skip the missed dose.
Can I use hydrocortisone cream whilst taking other medicines?
Most medicines will not affect, or be affected by, topical application of hydrocortisone cream. If you are concerned then discuss this with your doctor.
When should I stop using hydrocortisone cream?
Follow the instructions directed by your doctor, or stop as soon as your skin has healed. This may mean you only need to use the cream once or twice, or it may be up to a few weeks. If you’ve been advised to use hydrocortisone cream for a long term issue, such as eczema, follow your doctor’s advice.
Hydrocortisone cream is generally a helpful treatment for skin irritations and conditions. It’s typically easy to use, provides relief and doesn’t cause complications.
This article is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult with your local healthcare provider or doctor before placing an order.