Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid medicine or ‘steroid’.
It works by damping down the body’s immune response to reduce pain, itching and swelling.
It can also be used as hormone replacement for people who don't have enough of the natural stress hormone, cortisol.
Hydrocortisone is used to treat many health problems. The medicine comes in different ways, including skin creams for the body and scalp, injections and tablets. The type of hydrocortisone you use will depend on your health problem.
NHS coronavirus advice
As long as you have no symptoms of coronavirus infection, carry on taking your prescribed steroid medicine as usual.
If you develop any coronavirus symptoms, do not stop taking your steroid medicine suddenly. Ask your doctor about whether you need to stop taking it or not.
Updated: 20 March 2020
Skin problems: hydrocortisone cream
If you're treating a skin problem with hydrocortisone, it will usually be with a cream, ointment or lotion. These can be used for skin problems like:
- eczema and contact dermatitis (when the skin reacts to something it touches)
- prickly heat rash
- reactions to insect bites and stings
- nappy rash
Piles and itchy bottom: hydrocortisone cream, ointment, foam or suppositories
Hydrocortisone comes as cream, ointment, foam or suppositories specially for inside and around the bottom. It can be used to treat:
- piles (haemorrhoids)
- an itchy bottom
Mouth ulcers: hydrocortisone tablets that melt on the inside of your mouth
Buccal tablets are small white pellets which stick to the inside of your mouth. They release hydrocortisone as they dissolve. Buccal tablets relieve the soreness of mouth ulcers.
Ulcerative colitis: hydrocortisone foam
Ulcerative colitis is an illness where the inner lining of the bowel becomes sore and ulcerated. Your doctor may prescribe hydrocortisone rectal foam to relieve the symptoms of this illness.
Painful joints: hydrocortisone 'steroid' injections
Hydrocortisone or 'steroid' injections are used to treat swollen and painful joints in people with injuries and arthritis. Steroid injections help to reduce inflammation, which in turn reduces pain. The injections are also used to treat painful tendons and bursitis.
Addison’s disease and other adrenal gland disorders: hydrocortisone tablets
Your doctor may prescribe hydrocortisone tablets if your body doesn't make enough of the hormone cortisol - for example, if you have Addison's disease. The tablets work as a hormone replacement for natural cortisol.
Severe asthma or allergies: hydrocortisone tablets
You may also be prescribed hydrocortisone tablets if you have severe asthma or have a severe allergic reaction. Hydrocortisone tablets reduce your symptoms.
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