Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid that helps prevent inflammation.

Pronunciation: hye-drow-KOR-ti-zone

What are hydrocortisone’s uses?

Hydrocortisone is used in the treatment of many conditions but as an over-the-counter medicine, it is used in a cream or ointment form for:

  • Insect bites
  • Eczema
  • Dermatitis (inflammation of the skin)
  • Allergies
  • Rashes (non-infected)
  • Psoriasis (a chronic skin condition)

What dosage should be administered?

Apply a small amount of medication to the affected area and rub in – this is usually twice a day or as directed by your doctor or Clicks pharmacist. Be sure to wash your hands before and after application.

Always check the correct dosages with your Clicks pharmacist first.

What special precautions should you take?

  • Steroid medication weakens your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infection, so avoid people with infections while taking it (this does not apply to its topical use).
  • During pregnancy, it is best to consult your doctor about whether you should take hydrocortisone.
  • If you’re breastfeeding only use hydrocortisone if your doctor tells you it’s essential, as it does excrete into breast milk.
  • If you’re receiving long-term hydrocortisone, you should wear a medical alert disc.
  • In the elderly, taking hydrocortisone could increase their risk of developing osteoporosis (especially in post-menopausal women) and hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Long-term or chronic therapy could result in growth retardation for children, so close monitoring by a doctor is essential.
  • You should not drink alcohol if you’re taking hydrocortisone.

Hydrocortisone should be used with caution if you suffer from the following conditions:

What drug interactions could you experience?

As a rule, always inform your doctor or Clicks pharmacist what prescription and non-prescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal products you are taking or planning to take to ensure you don’t suffer the effects of adverse drug interactions.

What are hydocortisone’s side effects?

Mild side effects of oral hydrocortisone could include:

  • Sleep problems
  • Acne
  • Dry skin, thinning skin, bruising
  • Increased sweating
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Stomach pain and nausea

For high doses, side effects for oral hydrocortisone could include:

  • Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar)
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (stomach problems)
  • Fluid and electrolyte disturbances
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Susceptibility to infections

This is not a complete list of side effects. It’s essential that you call your doctor should you notice any severe or odd side effects.

What are the overdose symptoms?

Call a doctor or an ambulance immediately if you experience any odd symptoms, including the following symptoms:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction, including hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Problems with your vision
  • Seizure
  • Unusual thoughts or behavior or sudden depression
  • Bloody stools or coughing up of blood
  • Very high blood pressure with uneven heartbeats
The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in April 2015