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Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid medication used to treat a variety of conditions due to its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties.

Last Modified: 13 May 2024

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What is Hydrocortisone? 

Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid medication used to treat a variety of conditions due to its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. It mimics the action of steroids normally produced by the adrenal glands. 

Hydrocortisone is available in various formulations, including creams, ointments, tablets, injections, and oral solutions. Its effectiveness is derived from its ability to reduce inflammation, swelling, redness, and pain in the affected areas. 

Global Name

Generic name: Hydrocortisone 
Brand name: Cortef, Solu-Cortef, Anusol-HC, Locoid, Westcort, Cortaid, Preparation H Hydrocortisone


What is Hydrocortisone used for? 

Hydrocortisone is used to treat a wide array of conditions such as: 

  • Skin conditions (eczema, dermatitis, allergies, rash). 
  • Inflammation from joint diseases (arthritis). 
  • Asthma and other lung conditions. 
  • Autoimmune diseases (lupus, multiple sclerosis). 
  • Hormonal disorders (adrenal insufficiency). 
  • Certain types of cancer (leukemia, lymphoma). 

How do you use Hydrocortisone? 


Hydrocortisone is available as a cream, ointment or lotion for topical use;, a tablet or syrup for oral use, and as an injectable solution. 

Dosage information: 

  • Adults: Dosage varies depending on the condition treated, route of administration, and the product used. 
  • Children: Pediatric dosages are carefully calculated based on weight and condition. 


  • Children: Can be used under medical supervision. 
  • Adults: Suitable for adults at prescribed dosages. 
Avoid if with hypersensitivity/allergy to Hydrocortisone or any of its components. 

Take Gaviscon after meals and at bedtime, or as directed by a healthcare professional. 

Warnings and precautions:

Long-term use can lead to side effects such as skin thinning, adrenal suppression, or hormonal imbalances. Always use under medical guidance. 

Hydrocortisone should be taken with food to reduce stomach irritation when taken orally. 

Interactions and contraindications of the drug 

Hydrocortisone may interact with other drugs like NSAIDs, blood thinners, or vaccines. It is contraindicated in systemic fungal infections, active, untreated tuberculosis and sepsis and patients with hypersensitivity to the drug. 

Side Effects

Possible side effects include weight gain, swelling, high blood pressure, mood changes, elevated blood glucose, hormonal imbalance and increased risk of infection. 

Pharmacist Tips

For Topical Hydrocortisone: 
  • Only apply the cream or ointment to the affected area as directed by your healthcare provider. 
  • Avoid using the medication on the face, groin, or underarms unless directed by a doctor. 
  • Do not use tight-fitting diapers or plastic pants for a child being treated in the diaper area. 
  • Wash your hands before and after applying the cream, unless you are using it to treat a hand condition. 
  • Do not use the cream on open wounds or infected skin. 
  • Discontinue the medication and consult a healthcare provider if your condition worsens or does not improve within a prescribed period. 
For Oral Hydrocortisone: 
  • Take oral hydrocortisone with food or milk to prevent stomach upset. 
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully when it comes to dosage; do not take more or less than prescribed. 
  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it's near the time of the next dose, skip the missed dose and resume your usual dosing schedule. Do not double the dose to catch up. 
  • Carry identification indicating you are using hydrocortisone, especially if you are taking it for a long-term condition. In case of an emergency, healthcare providers will need to know you are on steroid treatment. 
  • Be aware of signs of internal bleeding, such as black or bloody stools or vomit that looks like coffee grounds, and report them to a healthcare provider immediately. 
For Injectable Hydrocortisone: 
  • Injectable hydrocortisone is typically administered by a healthcare professional in a clinic or hospital setting. 
  • Make sure to attend all appointments for your injections. 
  • Inform your healthcare provider of all medications you are currently taking to avoid interactions. 

General Tips: 

  • Managing Side Effects: Be aware of potential side effects, such as mood swings or weight gain, and discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider. 
  • Long-term Use: If you've been using hydrocortisone for a long time, do not stop using it suddenly without consulting your doctor, to avoid withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Storage: Keep hydrocortisone in its original container, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Dispose of any medication that is outdated or no longer needed by talking to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication. 
  • Monitoring: Regular monitoring may be necessary if you are on a long-term hydrocortisone treatment. This could include hormone, electrolyte and blood glucose level monitoring, blood pressure checks, bone density tests, and eye exams. 


Where is Hydrocortisone available in Hong Kong?

Hydrocortisone is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that can be sold without a prescription. Topical preparations can be bought over-the-counter, but oral and injectable forms require a prescription.


Can I stop taking Hydrocortisone abruptly?

No, you should not stop taking Hydrocortisone suddenly, especially if you have been on it for a long time. Your doctor will advise on a tapering schedule to avoid acute withdrawal symptoms.

Does Hydrocortisone affect my immune system?

Yes, Hydrocortisone can suppress the immune system, increasing the risk of infections. It’s important to take precautions to avoid exposure to infections.

How long does it take for Hydrocortisone to work? 

Hydrocortisone typically begins to reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms within a few hours of application for topical formulations, or within a day for oral administration. However, the time to notice significant improvement can vary depending on the condition being treated. 

This website provides content related to drug use and medicine for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Do not use the information on this website to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified healthcare provider. The website's owners and contributors are not liable for any repercussions, adverse effects, or consequences resulting from the use of any medication or information provided herein.

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