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Hydrocortisone rectal (foam, enema)

Generic name: hydrocortisone rectal (foam, enema) [ hye-dro-KORT-i-zone-REK-tal ]
Brand names: Cortenema, Cortifoam
Dosage forms: rectal foam with applicator (10%); rectal suspension (100 mg/60 mL)
Drug class: Glucocorticoids

Medically reviewed by on Apr 21, 2021. Written by Cerner Multum.

What is hydrocortisone rectal?

Hydrocortisone rectal (foam or enema) is a steroid medicine that is used with other medicines to treat ulcerative colitis and its effects on the lower intestines and rectal area.

Hydrocortisone rectal may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.


Follow all directions on your medicine label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use hydrocortisone rectal if you are allergic to hydrocortisone, or if you have:

  • a fungal infection;

  • an intestinal infection;

  • a fistula (abnormal opening) or perforation (a hole or tear) in your intestines;

  • a bowel obstruction or severe constipation;

  • if you need certain vaccinations;

  • if you recently had surgery on your intestines; or

  • if you are allergic to propylene glycol, parabens or other ingredients in the rectal foam or enema.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Do not give this medicine to a child without medical advice.

How should I use hydrocortisone rectal?

Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Use the medicine exactly as directed. Use this medicine in the smallest amount and for the shortest time needed to treat your condition.

Do not take by mouth. Rectal medicine is for use only on your rectum.

Read and carefully follow any Instructions for Use provided with your medicine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you do not understand these instructions.

Try to empty your bowel and bladder before using rectal medicine.

Wash your hands before and after using this medicine.

Use only the applicator provided with this medicine to insert it into your rectum.

Do not insert the applicator tip too deeply or you could damage your rectum.

Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve or if they get worse.

Your dose needs may change during times of illness or unusual stress. Do not change your dose or stop using hydrocortisone rectal without your doctor's instructions.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Do not refrigerate.

The rectal foam is flammable. Keep away from open flame or high heat. The canister may explode if it gets too hot. Do not puncture or burn an empty foam canister.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Use the medicine as soon as you can, but skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not use two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

High doses or long-term use of steroid medicine can lead to thinning skin, easy bruising, changes in body fat (especially in your face, neck, back, and waist), increased acne or facial hair, menstrual problems, impotence, or loss of interest in sex.

What should I avoid while using hydrocortisone rectal?

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using hydrocortisone rectal. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), and nasal flu (influenza) vaccine.

Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Call your doctor for preventive treatment if you are exposed to chickenpox or measles. These conditions can be serious or even fatal in people who are using steroid medicine.

Hydrocortisone rectal side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Hydrocortisone rectal may cause serious side effects. Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe rectal pain or burning, bleeding from your rectum;

  • fever or other signs of infection;

  • vision changes;

  • muscle weakness, joint pain, bone pain;

  • unusual changes in mood or behavior;

  • severe headaches, ringing in your ears, pain behind your eyes;

  • a seizure;

  • heart problems--chest pain, irregular heartbeats, swelling, rapid weight gain;

  • low potassium level--leg cramps, constipation, irregular heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, increased thirst or urination, numbness or tingling, muscle weakness or limp feeling;

  • low calcium level--muscle spasms or contractions, numbness or tingly feeling (around your mouth, or in your fingers and toes); or

  • signs of stomach bleeding--bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds.

Common side effects of hydrocortisone rectal may include:

  • stomach pain, bloating;

  • acne, rash, redness, dryness;

  • changes in your menstrual periods;

  • increased sweating; or

  • changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your face, neck and waist).

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect hydrocortisone rectal?

Sometimes it is not safe to use certain medications at the same time. Some drugs can affect your blood levels of other drugs you take, which may increase side effects or make the medications less effective.

Many drugs can affect hydrocortisone rectal. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed here. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.

Where can I get more information?

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Popular FAQ

What does hydrocortisone cream do to eczema?

Hydrocortisone blocks substances in the skin that cause itching and inflammation. It may be recommended by your doctor as part of a treatment plan to manage eczema.

Does hydrocortisone lower your immune system?

Yes. Hydrocortisone suppresses, or lowers, your immune system. This means that if you take hydrocortisone, you may be more likely to get infections than a person who is not taking it.

Is hydrocortisone a strong steroid?

Steroids are classified by their potency as short-, medium- or long-acting. Hydrocortisone is a short-acting steroid. It’s less potent than other steroids like prednisone and methylprednisolone, which are intermediate-acting. All steroids come with risks and may cause side effects.

Hydrocortisone tablets come in three strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg and 20 mg. The strength your doctor prescribes depends on what condition is being treated and how your body responds.

How long does hydrocortisone take to work?

Hydrocortisone starts working about 30 minutes after you take a dose. That means the concentration of hydrocortisone in your system will be highest 30 minutes after you take a tablet. The length of time you will need to take hydrocortisone will depend on what condition is being treated.

Hydrocortisone cream is not recommended to put on a shingles rash and there is no evidence that hydrocortisone cream will help treat the pain of a shingles rash. The preferred treatment for shingles are antiviral medicines that you take by mouth, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir. Continue reading

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.