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Is hydrocortisone cream a good treatment for itching?

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Updated June 24, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Hydrocortisone
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Question: Is hydrocortisone cream a good treatment for itching?

Answer: Yes, depending on what is causing the itching. Hydrocortisone cream is a topical corticosteroid that treats skin inflammation, which is often referred to as dermatitis. Hydrocortisone cream is available over the counter without a prescription in different strengths (such as 0.5% and 1%), as well as in prescription strength (2.5%). Hydrocortisone cream is available in generic form, and is also marketed under certain brand names, such as Cortaid and Cortizone.

Hydrocortisone cream is an appropriate treatment for many allergic skin rashes that result in itching, such as atopic dermatitis (what most people call eczema) and contact dermatitis (including poison oak and ivy rashes). Hydrocortisone cream is also a good treatment for itching associated with insect bites, such as mosquito bites, and also can be helpful for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff of the scalp or skin).

Hydrocortisone is not particularly useful for the treatment of hives, since hives are caused by histamine, rather than by skin inflammation.

Hydrocortisone cream is typically applied to the affected skin two to four times a day for a few days to a few weeks until the skin itching or rash have resolved. Lower-potency versions (such as 0.5% or 1%) can be applied to the face for short periods of time, although the area around the eyes should be avoided. Long-term use of any topical steroids on the face, particularly more potent prescription versions, should be avoided, given the possibility of irreversible side effects.

Learn more about the ways that itchy skin can be treated.

Source:

Chen TM, Aeling JL. Topical Steroids. In: Fitzpatrick JE, Morelli JG, eds. Dermatology Secrets. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Mosby; 2007:408-16.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

 

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