Generic Name: hydrocortisone (hye-droe-KOR-ti-sone)
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on June 29, 2020.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
- Alkindi Sprinkle
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Endocrine-Metabolic Agent
Pharmacologic Class: Adrenal Glucocorticoid
Uses for hydrocortisone
Hydrocortisone provides relief for inflamed areas of the body. It is used to treat a number of different conditions, such as inflammation (swelling), severe allergies, 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 available only with your doctor's prescription.
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 oral granules in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have been established.
No information is available on the relationship of age to the effects of hydrocortisone tablets in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
No information is available on the relationship of age to the effects of hydrocortisone in geriatric patients.
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 taking 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:
- 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
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or
- Infection (eg, bacterial, virus, or fungus) or
- Liver disease (including cirrhosis) or
- Mood changes, including depression or
- Myasthenia gravis (severe muscle weakness) or
- Osteoporosis (weak bones) or
- Peptic ulcer, active or history of or
- Personality changes 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.
- Fever or
- Infection (eg, gastroenteritis) or
- Stress or
- Surgery or
- Trauma—Use with caution. May increase risk for serious side effects.
- Fungal infections—Should not be used in patients with these conditions.
Proper use of hydrocortisone
Take hydrocortisone exactly as directed by your doctor. Do not take more of it, do not take it more often, and do not take it for a longer time than your doctor ordered. To do so may increase the chance for unwanted effects.
If you use hydrocortisone for a long time, do not suddenly stop using it without checking first with your doctor. You may need to slowly decrease your dose before stopping it completely.
Hydrocortisone comes with a Medication Guide. Read and follow these instructions carefully.
The oral granules are contained within capsules. Do not swallow the capsule. Do not chew or crush the granules. Do not let the capsules get wet because some of the granules may stick to the capsule. Do not give the granules through a nasogastric or gastric tube because it may block the tube.
To use the granules:
- Your doctor will tell you how to prepare or give the dose to your child. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.
- Take one capsule from the bottle.
- Hold the capsule with the writing at the top. Tap the capsule to make sure the granules fall to the bottom.
- Squeeze the bottom of the capsule gently to loosen the top of the capsule from the bottom.
- Twist the top of the capsule carefully.
- You may give the medicine with or without food onto a spoon or directly into the child's mouth.
- Do not add the granules to a fluid because it may decrease the full dose and it may leave a bitter taste.
- The medicine should be given and swallowed within 5 minutes to avoid bitter taste.
- Give a sip of fluids like water, milk, breast-milk, or formula right away to make sure all granules are swallowed.
The dose of hydrocortisone will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of hydrocortisone. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For oral dosage form (tablets):
- Dose depends on medical condition:
- Adults—At first, 20 to 240 milligrams (mg) per day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
- Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
- Dose depends on medical condition:
- For oral dosage form (granules):
- For adrenal problems:
- Children—Dose is based on body surface area and must be determined by your doctor. Your doctor may adjust the dose depending on the age and symptoms. Dose is usually 0.5 to 1 milligram (mg) divided in 3 doses and given 3 times a day. Some patients may have their dose divided in 2 doses and given 2 times a day.
- For adrenal problems:
If you miss a dose of hydrocortisone, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not double doses.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Ask your healthcare professional how you should dispose of any medicine you do not use.
Use the oral granules within 60 days after opening the bottle.
Precautions while using hydrocortisone
If you will be taking hydrocortisone for a long time, it is very important that your doctor check you at regular visits for any unwanted effects that may be caused by hydrocortisone. Blood or urine tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Using too much of hydrocortisone or using it for a long time may increase your risk of having adrenal gland problems (eg, Cushing's syndrome). Talk to your doctor right away if you have blurred vision, dizziness or fainting, a fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeat, increased thirst or urination, irritability, or unusual tiredness or weakness.
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 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 a fever, chills, sore throat, or any other sign of an infection, call your doctor right away.
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. These may be symptoms of eye or vision problems (eg, cataracts, glaucoma, central serous chorioretinopathy). 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 taking hydrocortisone.
Hydrocortisone might cause thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) 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.
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 immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- blurred vision
- burning, dry, or itching eyes
- decrease in the amount of urine
- discharge, excessive tearing
- dry mouth
- ear congestion
- fast, slow, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- irregular heartbeats
- mental depression
- mood changes
- noisy, rattling breathing
- numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- pounding in the ears
- redness, pain, swelling of eye, eyelid, or inner lining of the eyelid
- runny or stuffy nose
- sore throat
- swelling of the fingers, hands, feet, or lower legs
- trouble thinking, speaking, or walking
- trouble breathing
- trouble sleeping
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- weight gain
Incidence not known
- bloody, black, or tarry stools
- cough or hoarseness
- darkening of the skin
- decrease in height
- decreased vision
- eye pain
- eye tearing
- facial hair growth in females
- fever or chills
- flushed, dry skin
- fruit-like breath odor
- full or round face, neck, or trunk
- heartburn or indigestion (severe and continuous)
- increased hunger
- increased thirst
- increased urination
- loss of appetite
- loss of sexual desire or ability
- lower back or side pain
- menstrual irregularities
- muscle pain or tenderness
- muscle wasting or weakness
- pain in the back, ribs, arms, or legs
- painful or difficult urination
- skin rash
- stomach pain or cramps
- trouble healing
- unexplained weight loss
- vision changes
- vomiting of material that looks like coffee grounds
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- increased appetite
- large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
- puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, or lips
Incidence not known
- Abnormal fat deposits on the face, neck, and trunk
- dry scalp
- lightening of normal skin color
- red face
- reddish purple lines on the arms, face, legs, trunk, or groin
- swelling of the stomach area
- thinning of the scalp hair
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?
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- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
- Dosage Information
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- Drug class: glucocorticoids
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