Generic Name: hydrocortisone (hye-droe-KOR-ti-sone)
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on March 10, 2021.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
- Powder for Solution
Therapeutic Class: Endocrine-Metabolic Agent
Pharmacologic Class: Adrenal Glucocorticoid
Uses for hydrocortisone
Hydrocortisone is used to treat certain medical conditions, such as inflammation (swelling), severe allergic reactions, kidney diseases, adrenal problems, arthritis, asthma, blood or bone marrow problems, eye or vision problems, lupus, skin conditions, and ulcerative colitis.
Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid (cortisone-like medicine or steroid). It works on the immune system to help relieve swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions.
Hydrocortisone is to be given only by or under the supervision of a doctor.
Before using hydrocortisone
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For hydrocortisone, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to hydrocortisone or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated pediatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of hydrocortisone injection in children older than 1 month of age. However, safety and efficacy have not been established in children 1 month of age and younger.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of hydrocortisone injection in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have age-related liver, kidney, or heart problems, which may require caution in the dose for patients receiving hydrocortisone.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are receiving hydrocortisone, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using hydrocortisone with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
- Rotavirus Vaccine, Live
Using hydrocortisone with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Amtolmetin Guacil
- Choline Salicylate
- Flufenamic Acid
- Lutetium Lu 177 Dotatate
- Mefenamic Acid
- Niflumic Acid
- Nimesulide Beta Cyclodextrin
- Salicylic Acid
- Sodium Salicylate
- Tiaprofenic Acid
- Tolfenamic Acid
Using hydrocortisone with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of hydrocortisone. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Bleeding problem (eg, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura) or
- Fungal infections—Should not be given in patients with these conditions.
- Cataracts or
- Congestive heart failure or
- Cushing's syndrome (adrenal gland problem) or
- Diabetes or
- Eye infection (eg, herpes infection of the eyes) or
- Glaucoma or
- Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) or
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or
- Infection (eg, bacteria, virus) or
- Infestation (eg, worm, larva) or
- Kidney disease or
- Liver disease (including cirrhosis) or
- Mental health problems, history of or
- Mood changes, including depression or
- Myasthenia gravis (severe muscle weakness) or
- Osteoporosis (weak bones) or
- Peptic ulcer, active or history of or
- Pheochromocytoma (adrenal tumor) or
- Stomach or intestinal problems (eg, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis) or
- Tuberculosis, inactive or
- Weak immune system (eg, Kaposi sarcoma)—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
Proper use of hydrocortisone
A doctor or other trained health professional will give you hydrocortisone in a hospital. Hydrocortisone is given through a needle placed in a vein or as a shot into a muscle.
Precautions while using hydrocortisone
It is very important that your doctor check the progress of you or your child closely while you are receiving hydrocortisone to make sure that hydrocortisone is working properly. Blood and urine tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Hydrocortisone may cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you have a rash, itching, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth while you are using hydrocortisone.
Using too much of hydrocortisone or using it for a long time may increase your risk of having adrenal gland problems. Talk to your doctor right away if you have more than one of these symptoms while you are using hydrocortisone: blurred vision, dizziness or fainting, a fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeat, increased thirst or urination, irritability, or unusual tiredness or weakness.
Hydrocortisone may cause you to get more infections than usual. Avoid people who are sick or have infections and wash your hands often. If you are exposed to chickenpox or measles, tell your doctor right away. If you start to have fever, chills, sore throat, or any other signs of an infection, call your doctor right away.
If you are using hydrocortisone for a long time, tell your doctor about any extra stress or anxiety in your life, including other health concerns and emotional stress. Your dose of hydrocortisone might need to be changed for a short time while you have extra stress.
Hydrocortisone may increase your risk of having broken bones (fractures) or slow growth in children if used for a long time. Tell your doctor if you have any bone pain or if you have an increased risk for osteoporosis. If your child is using hydrocortisone, tell the doctor if you think your child is not growing properly.
Check with your doctor right away if blurred vision, difficulty in reading, eye pain, or any other change in vision occurs during or after treatment. Your doctor may want you to have your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor).
While you are being treated with hydrocortisone, do not have any immunizations (vaccines) without your doctor's approval. Hydrocortisone may lower your body's resistance and the vaccine may not work as well or you might get the infection the vaccine is meant to prevent. In addition, you should not be around other persons living in your household who receive live virus vaccines because there is a chance they could pass the virus on to you. Some examples of live vaccines include measles, mumps, influenza (nasal flu vaccine), poliovirus (oral form), rotavirus, and rubella. Do not get close to them and do not stay in the same room with them for very long. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor.
Hydrocortisone may cause changes in mood or behavior for some patients. Tell your doctor right away if you have depression, mood swings, a false or unusual sense of well-being, trouble with sleeping, or personality changes while using hydrocortisone.
Check with your doctor right away if you feel muscle pain, tenderness, and an increase in muscle weakness while using hydrocortisone.
Make sure any doctor or dentist who treats you knows that you are using hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone may affect the results of certain skin tests.
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.
Hydrocortisone side effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
Incidence not known
- back pain
- bloody or black tarry stools
- bone pain, tenderness, or aching
- chest pain or discomfort
- darkening or lightening of skin color
- eye pain and blurred vision
- facial hair growth in females
- fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- fast, slow, or irregular breathing
- feeling sad or empty
- full or round face, neck, or trunk
- general feeling of illness
- heartburn, indigestion
- increased appetite
- increased fat deposits on the face, neck, and trunk
- increased hair growth on the face, forehead, back, arms, and legs
- increased sweating, thirst, urination
- lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
- loss of appetite
- loss of interest or pleasure
- loss of sexual desire or ability
- menstrual irregularities
- muscle wasting and weakness
- severe and continuing nausea
- skin rash
- slow wound healing
- sore throat
- stomach pain and cramping
- swelling of eyes or eyelids
- thinning of the scalp hair
- tightness in chest
- trouble concentrating
- trouble in breathing
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- unusual weight loss
- vomit that looks like coffee grounds
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Frequently asked questions
- What is the difference between hydrocortisone and cortisone?
- How long does it take for neomycin, polymyxin b and hydrocortisone ear drops to work?
- Is this drug the same as hydrocortisone?
More about hydrocortisone
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
- Dosage Information
- Drug Images
- Drug Interactions
- Compare Alternatives
- Support Group
- Pricing & Coupons
- 21 Reviews
- Drug class: glucocorticoids
- FDA Alerts (1)
- Patient Information
- Hydrocortisone injection
- Hydrocortisone rectal foam, enema
- Hydrocortisone (Advanced Reading)
- Hydrocortisone Enema
- ... +3 more
Related treatment guides
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.