Medicines & Supplements A to Z > Hydrocortisone


Last updated on 18/03/2021.

Overview   |   Dosage   |    Side Effects   |   Precautions  |   Tips  |   Where To Buy  

GENERIC NAME: Hydrocortisone

CHINESE NAME: 乙酸皮質醇 / 氫化可的松

BRAND NAME(S) IN HONG KONG: Axcel Hydrocortisone, Efficort, Egocort, H-cort, Sigmacort

DRUG CLASS: Corticosteroid / glucocorticoid; Antihemorrhoidal agent

USED FOR: Mild inflammatory skin disorders, nappy rash, acute allergic reactions, corticosteroid replacement, severe inflammatory bowel disease, etc.

OTHER DRUGS IN THE SAME CLASS: Betamethasone, Dexamethasone, Fluticasone, Fluocinolone, Prednisolone, Prednisone

– 0.5%, 1% (cream)
– 20mg (tablets)
– 1% (lotion)

What is Hydrocortisone for?

Hydrocortisone belongs to a class of medications called glucocorticoids or steroid hormones. It mainly works by reducing inflammation with a wide range of uses, including:

– Mild inflammatory skin disorders such as eczema
– Nappy rash
– Acute allergic reactions such as angioedema of the upper respiratory tract and anaphylaxis
– Corticosteroid replacement for those taking more than 10 mg Prednisolone daily within 3 months of moderate or major surgery, or minor surgery under general anaesthesia)
– Corticosteroid replacement for adrenocortical insufficiency
– Severe inflammatory bowel disease
– Ulcerative colitis
– Proctitis
– Proctosigmoiditis

How to use it?

For mild inflammatory skin disorders such as eczema

To the skin

Adult / Child
Apply thinly 1-2 times daily. 

For nappy rash 

To the skin 

Apply 1-2 times daily for no longer than 1 week, discontinue as soon as the inflammation is resolved.

For replacement in adrenocortical insufficiency

Orally using immediate-release medicines 

20-30 mg daily in divided doses; Your doctor may adjust the dose according to your response.

For ulcerative colitis / proctitis / proctosigmoiditis 

Rectally using rectal foam 

Initially 1 metered application 1-2 times daily for 2-3 weeks, then reduce to 1 metered application once daily on alternate days.

What are the side effects of Hydrocortisone?

When used as a cream or ointment, minimise the period of time you use Hydrocortisone as long-term use can cause skin thinning. When Hydrocortisone is taken by mouth for long-term use, it can have more serious side effects such as anxiety, cataracts, cognitive impairment, fat redistribution (moon face and buffalo hump), fluid retention, gastrointestinal discomfort, headache, impaired wound healing, high blood pressure, increased risk of infection, menstrual cycle irregularities, and osteoporosis.

Who should not take Hydrocortisone?

– People allergic to Hydrocortisone or any component of the formulation
– Patients with systemic fungal infections or herpes simplex of the eye

Pharmacist Tips:

– Use the smallest amount of cream or ointment for the shortest period of time.
– Apply thinly onto the affected areas. Usually one fingertip unit (from the very end of the finger to the first crease in the finger) of topical steroid (the tube is assumed to have a 5mm nozzle) is enough for a skin area twice the size of an adult’s hand (the flat side) with all fingers together.
– Avoid skin occlusion as it can promote absorption into the body.
– Wash hands before and after application.
– You may also need to increase dietary intake of potassium, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, folate, and vitamins if you take the oral preparation.
– Report signs of new or worsening infections
– After long-term use of this drug, contact your doctor/pharmacist if you notice fatigue, weight gain, or thinning of skin that bruises easily.

Common dosing schedule:
No specific meal schedule requirements. Take with food to reduce stomach upset.
Do not discontinue oral Hydrocortisone abruptly. Discuss with your healthcare provider before stopping.

This schedule is for reference only, adjustments may be made according to individual needs.

Some common medications Hydrocortisone may interact with:
Oral preparations:
– Antacids, e.g. Aluminium hydroxide
– Antidiabetic agents, e.g. Metformin
– NK-1 receptor antagonists, e.g. Aprepitant, Fosaprepitant
– Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), e.g. Celecoxib, Ibuprofen, Naproxen

Please notify your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking the above medication, dosage adjustments might be needed.

Where to buy Hydrocortisone in Hong Kong?

Many skin creams or ointments containing Hydrocortisone are over-the-counter pharmacy only medicines in Hong Kong. Other forms are prescription only medicines. As for pharmacy only medicines, they are over-the-counter medicine and can be purchased without a prescription in a pharmacy by speaking with the pharmacist. They can also be obtained from doctors. As for prescription only medicines, they require a prescription from a doctor to be purchased in a pharmacy. They can also be obtained from doctors. To find a pharmacy near you, refer to the list of pharmacies (“Authorized Sellers of Poisons”) from the Hong Kong Department of Health.

For more information about drug names and ingredients, you can visit Hong Kong’s Drug Office at

Need more information?

For detailed information about the use of Hydrocortisone in children, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and for questions about drug interactions, please check with your pharmacist or doctor.

Disclaimer: our goal is to provide you with the most relevant drug information and common dosage for Hong Kong. This information does not constitute medical advice. For specific treatment recommendations and advice, always discuss with your doctor or pharmacist, and follow the instructions included with your specific medicine.