What is hydrocortisone?


Generic Name: Hydrocortisone Brand Name(s): Generics only. No brands available.

Know the basics

What is hydrocortisone used for?

Hydrocortisone is a natural substance (corticosteroid hormone) made by the adrenal gland. It is used to treat conditions such as arthritis, blood/hormone/immune system disorders, skin and eye conditions, breathing problems, cancer, and severe allergies. hydrocortisone decreases your immune system’s response to various diseases to reduce symptoms such as pain, swelling and allergic-type reactions.

Hydrocortisone is also used to treat low hydrocortisone levels caused by diseases of the adrenal gland (such as Addison’s disease, adrenocortical insufficiency). Corticosteroids are needed in many ways for the body to function well. They are important for salt and water balance and keeping blood pressure normal.

How should I take hydrocortisone?

Take hydrocortisone by mouth, with food or milk to prevent stomach upset, exactly as directed by your doctor. Take this medication with a full glass of water (8 ounces/240 millilitres) unless your doctor directs you otherwise.

Follow the dosing schedule carefully. The dosage and length of treatment are based on your medical condition and response to treatment. Your doctor may direct you to take hydrocortisone 1 to 4 times a day or take a single dose every other day. It may help to mark your calendar with reminders or use a pill box.

Do not stop taking hydrocortisone without consulting your doctor. Some conditions may become worse when this drug is suddenly stopped. Your dose may need to be gradually decreased.

If you have used hydrocortisone regularly for a long time or in high doses, you may have withdrawal symptoms if the drug is suddenly stopped. To prevent withdrawal symptoms (such as weakness, weight loss, nausea, muscle pain, headache, tiredness,dizziness), your doctor may reduce your dose gradually. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more details, and report any withdrawal reactions immediately.

Tell your doctor if your condition persists or worsens.

How do I store hydrocortisone?

Hydrocortisone is best stored at room temperature away from direct light and moisture. To prevent drug damage, you should not store hydrocortisone in the bathroom or the freezer. There may be different brands of hydrocortisone that may have different storage needs. It is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

You should not flush hydrocortisone down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. It is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.

Know the precautions & warnings

What should I know before using hydrocortisone?

Before taking hydrocortisone,

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to hydrocortisone, aspirin, tartrazine (a yellow dye in some processed foods and drugs), or any other drugs.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially anticoagulants (‘blood thinners’) such as warfarin (Coumadin), arthritis medication, aspirin, cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), digoxin (Lanoxin), diuretics (‘water pills’), estrogen (Premarin), ketoconazole (Nizoral), oral contraceptives, phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), rifampin (Rifadin), theophylline (Theo-Dur), and vitamins.
  • if you have a fungal infection (other than on your skin), do not take hydrocortisone without talking to your doctor.
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had liver, kidney, intestinal, or heart disease; diabetes; an underactive thyroid gland; high blood pressure; mental illness; myasthenia gravis; osteoporosis; herpes eye infection; seizures; tuberculosis (TB); or ulcers.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking hydrocortisone, call your doctor.
  • if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking hydrocortisone.
  • if you have a history of ulcers or take large doses of aspirin or other arthritis medication, limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages while taking this drug. Hydrocortisone makes your stomach and intestines more susceptible to the irritating effects of alcohol, aspirin, and certain arthritis medications. This effect increases your risk of ulcers.

Is it safe to take hydrocortisone during pregnancy or breast-feeding?

There are no adequate studies in women for determining risk when using this medication during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Please always consult with your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before taking this medication. This medication is pregnancy risk category C according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA pregnancy risk category reference below:

  • A=No risk,
  • B=No risk in some studies,
  • C=There may be some risk,
  • D=Positive evidence of risk,
  • X=Contraindicated,
  • N=Unknown

Know the side effects

What are the side effects of hydrocortisone?

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

Call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • Feeling short of breath, even with mild exertion;
  • Swelling of your ankles or feet;
  • Muscle weakness;
  • Rapid weight gain, especially in your face and midsection;
  • Severe rectal pain or burning;
  • Bleeding from your rectum;
  • Severe stomach pain;
  • Sudden and severe headache or pain behind your eyes; or
  • Seizure (convulsions).
  • Less serious side effects may include:
  • Mild rectal pain or burning;
  • Acne;
  • Changes in your menstrual periods;
  • Increased sweating; or
  • Increased facial or body hair growth.

Not everyone experiences these side effects. There may be some side effects not listed above. If you have any concerns about a side-effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Know the interactions

What drugs may interact with hydrocortisone?

Hydrocortisone may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects. To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. For your safety, do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any drugs without your doctor’s approval.

There are many other medicines that can interact with steroids. Below is only a partial list of these medicines:

  • Aspirin (taken on a daily basis or at high doses);
  • A diuretic (water pill);
  • A blood thinner such as warfarin (coumadin);
  • Cyclosporine (gengraf, neoral, sandimmune);
  • Insulin or diabetes medications you take by mouth;
  • Ketoconazole (nizoral);
  • Rifampin (rifadin, rifater, rifamate, rimactane); or
  • Seizure medications such as phenytoin (dilantin) or phenobarbital (luminal, solfoton).

Does food or alcohol interact with hydrocortisone?

Hydrocortisone may interact with food or alcohol by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food or alcohol interactions before using this drug.

What health conditions may interact with hydrocortisone?

Hydrocortisone may interact with your health condition. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. It is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have, especially:

  • Cataracts;
  • Congestive heart failure;
  • Cushing’s syndrome (adrenal gland problem);
  • Diabetes;
  • Eye infection;
  • Glaucoma;
  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar);
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure);
  • Infection (e.g., bacterial, virus, or fungus);
  • Mood changes, including depression;
  • Myasthenia gravis (severe muscle weakness);
  • Osteoporosis (weak bones);
  • Peptic ulcer, active or history of;
  • Personality changes;
  • Stomach or intestinal problems (e.g., diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis);
  • Tuberculosis, inactive—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
  • Fungal infections—Should not be used in patients with this condition.

Understand the Dosage

The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor or pharmacist before using this medication.

What is the dose of Hydrocortisone for an adult?

The initial dosage of Hydrocortisone may vary from 20 mg to 240 mg of hydrocortisone per day depending on the specific disease entity being treated

In treatment of acute exacerbations of multiple sclerosis, daily doses of 200 mg of prednisolone for a week followed by 80 mg every other day for 1 month have been shown to be effective (20 mg of hydrocortisone is equivalent to 5 mg of prednisolone).

What is the dose of Hydrocortisone for a child?

Severe inflammation, adrenal insufficiency.
Children: 2 to 8 mg/kg or 16 to 240 mg/m2 P.O. daily in three or four divided doses.

How is hydrocortisone available?

Hydrocortisone is available in the following dosage forms and strengths:

Solution, Reconstituted, Injection, as sodium succinate: 100 mg
Tablet, Oral, as base: 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg

What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services or go to your nearest emergency room.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

When you start to take hydrocortisone, ask your doctor what to do if you forget a dose. Write down these instructions so that you can refer to them later.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

You might also like