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Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid available in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that temporarily relieves external itching associated with minor skin irritations, inflammation, and rashes. It may be written as hydrocortisone or hydrocortisone acetate, but these are different forms of the same active ingredient. Hydrocortisone can be the only ingredient in a topical pain reliever (meaning products, such as creams and ointments, used on the body surface) and it can be found in single active ingredient topical medicines that are also labeled to treat anal itching.

Hydrocortisone is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe and effective when used according to label directions. Topical pain relievers containing hydrocortisone should only be applied to the outer surface of the body, but parents and other caregivers should be aware that these medicines are not intended to treat diaper rash.

*Hydrocortisone may not be contained in all products sold under these brands. Please read the OTC Drug Facts label carefully for active ingredient information for specific products.

Tips for Medicines with Hydrocortisone

When using hydrocortisone-containing medicines, it is important to know that:

  • You should avoid getting the product into your eyes.
  • You should not use more than the label instructs unless a doctor tells you to.
  • These products are for external use only.

Do not use if:

  • You have a vaginal discharge.

Ask a healthcare professional before use if:

  • You are currently using another medicine containing hydrocortisone.

Stop use and ask a doctor if:

  • Your condition gets worse or if your symptoms last for more than seven days or clear up and return again within a few days.
  • Rectal bleeding occurs.
  • You accidentally swallow the medicine. Immediately contact a doctor or the poison control national helpline at 800. 222.1222.

If you have questions about any of the medicines you are taking or if you have any unexpected side effects, talk to a healthcare professional. And of course, keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.

Tips for Parents

  • Do not use an OTC topical pain reliever containing hydrocortisone on a child with diaper rash. Talk to a healthcare professional for appropriate treatments.
  • Do not use an OTC topical pain reliever containing hydrocortisone to treat external anal itching on a child under the age of 12. Consult a healthcare professional.
  • OTC topical pain relievers may be used to treat rashes and other minor skin irritations on children aged two and older. 
  • Talk to a healthcare professional before using on a child under the age of two.

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