Hydrocortisone

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Question

What is hydrocortisone?

Answer

Hydrocortisone is a topical agent used to relieve mild to moderate symptoms of itching and rash caused by eczema or allergy. Hydrocortisone helps to block certain chemicals in the body that cause skin irritation, including redness, itching and inflammation. Hydrocortisone is for external use only and should be used as directed on the package or by your doctor.

How do I use hydrocortisone?

People with an allergy to hydrocortisone, should not use this form of corticosteroid. Lanacort should not be used to treat skin irritations that affect children, and it should not be used to treat bacterial, viral or fungal infections.

Do not use hydrocortisone to treat itching or rash on your face. When using a medication that contains hydrocortisone, it is important to avoid getting the medication in or near your eyes, nose or mouth.

Before applying hydrocortisone wash and dry the affected area of skin and your hands. Apply a thin layer of hydrocortisone cream to the affected area, rubbing the cream into the skin gently. Wash your hands immediately after applying hydrocortisone. Do not cover the treated area with a bandage or other form of dressing, unless directed to do so by your doctor. Depending on the severity of your eczema or allergy symptoms of itching and rash, you may need to apply hydrocortisone several times a day. Follow the package directions exactly and do not use more medication than directed. If you have any questions about using and applying hydrocortisone, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Hydrocortisone risks and side effects

Though drug interactions with hydrocortisone are rare, do not begin a new prescription or over-the-counter medication without first talking to your pharmacist or doctor while using hydrocortisone. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important to avoid using hydrocortisone until first talking to your doctor about its effects.

Although hydrocortisone is for topical use only, small amounts may be absorbed into the bloodstream. Long-term use of hydrocortisone increases the risk for certain side effects. The risk for allergic reaction symptoms increases if you are allergic to hydrocortisone. The common side effects of hydrocortisone include: stinging, dryness, redness and/or burning at the treatment site. In addition, acne, unusual hair growth, thinning of treated skin, skin discoloration, stretch marks and hair bumps may occur. Serious side effects of hydrocortisone, including allergic reactions, which are symptoms of rash, dizziness, difficulty breathing and swelling of the face, mouth, throat and lips, are not common. If one or more serious side effects develops, talk to your doctor right away. If you swallow hydrocortisone, seek medical attention right away. If you miss a dose of hydrocortisone, do not use more cream to make up for the missed dose.

See corticosteroid overdose in our Health Encyclopedia.

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