The Independent Pharmacy

Side effects of Hydrocortisone Cream

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 3 Nov 2022

If you’ve recently received a prescription for this treatment, it’s understandable that you may have further questions about the potential side effects or reactions that may occur with its use. If so, read on below as we delve into the side effects of Hydrocortisone.

Hydrocortisone 1% Cream & Ointment
Hydrocortisone 1% Cream & Ointment
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What are the most common side effects of Hydrocortisone?

As with any medication, some patients may experience side effects when using Hydrocortisone. While Hydrocortisone isn’t considered a particularly strong steroid-based treatment, some individuals may be more prone to adverse reactions than others.

In general, you’re very unlikely to experience any side effects when using Hydrocortisone for 4 weeks or less. It’s possible that you may feel a slight burning or tingling sensation during your first few applications, but this should subside as your body adjusts to the treatment.

Common side effects of Hydrocortisone:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Muscle weakness
  • Breakouts of acne, or skin appearing ‘thin’ or shiny

If these effects are mild, they will likely resolve themselves within a week. However, if they become more severe, you should consult your GP.

Serious side effects of Hydrocortisone:

Serious side effects are relatively rare, but you’re more likely to experience them if you’re using a strong Hydrocortisone treatment such as Hydrocortisone Butyrate, or if you use the treatment on a wide area of skin over a prolonged period.

If you experience any of the side effects below, cease treatment immediately and contact your GP:

  • Infection: If you notice your skin becoming red, swollen, or yellow fluid weeping from your skin, these are all signs of an infection.
  • Sickness/nausea: An upset stomach/vomiting, dizziness or fainting, muscle weakness, extreme tiredness, mood changes, loss of appetite, and weight loss are all signs of adrenal gland problems.
  • Confusion: Feelings of confusion, tiredness, needing to urinate more frequently, hot flushes, a quickening of breath, your breath smelling like fruit, or feeling more hungry or thirsty than usual are all signs of diabetes.
  • Mood changes: If you begin to feel manic, anxious, depressed, experience hallucinations, or have strange and unpleasant thoughts, these may signal an issue with your mental health.
  • Facial changes: If your face becomes puffy and more rounded, or you experience abnormal weight gain, this may be a sign of Cushing’s syndrome.
  • Pain: Muscle cramps, pain or weakness in the muscles, or abnormal heart rhythms can indicate low potassium levels. If you start to notice severe stomach or back pain or begin vomiting, this could also point to an issue with your pancreas.

Is it OK to use Hydrocortisone every day?

Most people who use Hydrocortisone will only need to apply the treatment once or twice a week for up to two weeks for their skin condition to clear up.

In order to purchase Hydrocortisone from The Independent Pharmacy, you’ll need to go through a short online consultation with our approved medical team. This is so we can be sure that this treatment will be safe and effective for your particular condition. However, we’d always recommend that you consult your doctor if you plan to use Hydrocortisone for a longer period than originally planned.

Hydrocortisone for skin

Hydrocortisone cream is a topical treatment designed for use on the skin. It is recommended that the cream or ointment be applied to the affected area once or twice a day, usually for no longer than one week.

If you’re suffering from dermatitis, eczema of the face or body, or psoriasis, Hydrocortisone will work to reduce chemicals in the body that causes swelling (otherwise known as an inflammatory reaction).

How long does Hydrocortisone cream take to work?

Depending on the severity of your skin condition, Hydrocortisone treatment should usually last between 3-7 days, with the effects becoming noticeable within a day or so of the treatment beginning.

In exceptional cases of eczema, dermatitis, or psoriasis, or if you fail to see any results after a week of use, it’s best to contact your GP. It may be that you require a more potent form of medication, such as Hydrocortisone Butyrate.

Hydrocortisone cream for eczema

Around 10% of adults and 20% of children in the UK suffer from eczema. Various types of psoriasis are also common skin conditions, including widespread plaque psoriasis and generalised pustular psoriasis.

Eczema is currently incurable. However, the good news is that symptoms of eczema can be effectively managed and reduced with suitable treatments. In mild to moderate cases, topical corticosteroids like Hydrocortisone are the best option.

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