1. About hydrocortisone
Hydrocortisone is a steroid (corticosteroid) medicine.
It works by calming down your body’s immune response to reduce pain, itching and swelling (inflammation).
It can also be used as hormone replacement for people who do not have enough of the natural stress hormone, cortisol.
Hydrocortisone is used to treat many health problems. The medicine comes in different forms, 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
2. Skin problems: hydrocortisone cream, ointment or lotion
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
3. Piles and itchy bottom: hydrocortisone cream, ointment or suppositories
Hydrocortisone comes as cream, ointment or suppositories specially for inside and around the anus (bottom). It can be used to treat:
- piles (haemorrhoids)
- an itchy bottom
4. Mouth ulcers: hydrocortisone tablets that melt on the inside of your mouth
Buccal tablets stick gently to the inside of your mouth and release hydrocortisone as they dissolve. Buccal tablets relieve the pain of mouth ulcers.
5. Painful joints: hydrocortisone injections
Hydrocortisone injections are used to treat swollen and painful joints in people with injuries and arthritis. They help to reduce pain and swelling (inflammation).
Injections are also used to treat painful tendons and bursitis.
6. Adrenal gland conditions: hydrocortisone tablets
You may take hydrocortisone tablets if your body does not make enough cortisol – for example if you have Addison's disease, or if you've had your adrenal glands taken out.
The tablets can also be prescribed for hypopituitarism, a rare condition affecting the pituitary gland.
Page last reviewed: 22/12/2020
Next review due: 22/12/2023