Hydrocortisone Cream for Babies - Benefits & Side Effects

Hydrocortisone Cream for Babies – Benefits and Side Effects

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
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Babies and toddlers are prone to a variety of mild illnesses in the first year of their lives. Among these, the most common are skin conditions such as cradle cap, insect bites, diaper rash, allergic reactions, baby acne, baby eczema, and so on. However, there is a rather effective treatment available for these problems – an over-the-counter medication known as hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid compound and has been used to control the symptoms of dermatological ailments for several decades. This article will help you understand the benefits and side effects of using hydrocortisone cream for a baby.

What Is Hydrocortisone Cream?

Hydrocortisone cream is classified as a corticosteroid which works by activating the natural substances in the skin that can reduce swelling. The cream comes as a spray, ointment, lotion or in liquid form. It can be used to treat skin conditions that cause redness, swelling, or itching caused by various skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, insect bites, allergic reactions, and other minor skin irritations.

Hydrocortisone cream is available over-the-counter (OTC) in lower strengths and as a prescription medication in higher strengths. It should be used as directed and only for short periods, as prolonged use can lead to potential side effects. If you or your baby have a skin condition, consult your doctor before using hydrocortisone cream.

Is the Use of Hydrocortisone Cream Safe for Babies?

Wondering if you can use hydrocortisone cream on babies? The use of hydrocortisone cream on a baby’s skin has been up for speculation for a while. While it is often recommended to older kids and adults, it requires some amount of precautionary measures before being used on a baby’s delicate skin. This is because the chemical can get concentrated in the baby’s bloodstream after getting absorbed through the skin, making it dangerous with prolonged usage. Using this cream on the baby’s diaper area is also not advised.

What Are the Benefits of Hydrocortisone Cream for Infants?

Hydrocortisone cream offers several benefits to children with inflammatory skin conditions. It takes care of various skill ailments by calming the external symptoms such as inflammation, heat rash, redness, itchiness and so on. It also provides relief from eczema, insect bites, dermatitis, and more.

Hydrocortisone is easily available over-the-counter. Only one per cent of the cream is meant for children who are older than two, but it is safe even for babies if used sparingly and for very short periods of time. In severe cases, doctors recommend applying a higher concentration hydrocortisone cream to babies, but if your baby has some skin condition and you want to use hydrocortisone to treat it, consult with your doctor first.

Baby skin problems

In What Forms Are Hydrocortisone Cream Available?

There are two versions of hydrocortisone cream available. One of them is an ointment, which is available in three concentrations, 0.5%, 1%, and 2.5%. The other is in cream form and is available in the same concentrations.

Tube of hydrocortisone cream

How Many Times Should You Apply the Hydrocortisone Cream on Your Baby’s Skin?

Your child’s paediatrician might recommend that you apply hydrocortisone cream on your baby’s skin once or twice a day. You can apply it on your baby’s skin either in the morning and at night or ten to twelve hours apart. However, before you start using this cream, keep in mind that you should use it at the same time every day.

How Much Cream Should You Apply?

As hydrocortisone cream works effectively when used in very small amounts, please ensure you know how much to apply. Your child’s doctor will be able to provide you with proper dosage and timing with respect to your child. Generally, a very thin layer is advised for babies.

Applying cream for baby's skin problems

How to Use Hydrocortisone Cream?

Please follow the procedure below before applying hydrocortisone cream on your baby’s skin.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before you apply the cream on your baby.
  • Squeeze out as much cream as required on your index finger, then spread it as thinly as possible on the affected part of the skin.
  • Gently rub it in until the skin absorbs it completely. Be gentle while applying the cream on to your baby’s skin as rubbing can cause irritation.
  • Avoid using hydrocortisone on the areas that are not affected. This will lower the risk of it getting absorbed into your child’s bloodstream and having a negative impact on his growth and development.
  • Avoid applying the cream anywhere near your baby’s eyes.
  • If you find that your baby’s skin turns red and is splattered with whitish patches or has a transparent yellow liquid oozing out, it might mean the skin is infected. In this case, consult your doctor immediately.

When Will the Cream Start Showing Results?

The skin ailment should resolve in four to seven days if you apply the hydrocortisone cream regularly as per the doctor’s instructions. However, if you don’t see a difference in your baby’s skin condition even after a week, please inform your doctor.

Happy baby with mother

What Will Happen If You Forget to Apply the Hydrocortisone Cream?

In case you forget to apply the hydrocortisone cream on your baby’s skin, you need not worry. Here is what you can do:

  • If the cream is to be applied twice a day, you can apply it no later than four hours after the timing prescribed. If you fail to apply it in the next four hours, simply wait for the next dose.
  • If the cream is to be applied once a day in the evening hours, you can simply apply it in the morning. Ensure that the cream is applied a minimum of eight hours before the prescribed evening dose.
  • If you are meant to apply it in the morning, do the same as above. Apply it in the evening, at least eight hours before the morning dose.

What Will Happen If You Apply Hydrocortisone Cream in Excess Quantity?

If you apply hydrocortisone cream on your baby’s skin a little bit more than suggested, there is no need to worry. However, if you feel like you have applied it frequently, or in excess amounts, please inform your child’s paediatrician about the same.

What Are the Side Effects of Hydrocortisone Cream on Babies?

As hydrocortisone can lead to serious complications, it requires great care while using it. Some of the side effects of using hydrocortisone cream for babies include:

1. Skin Infections

Hydrocortisone works by regulating the immune response in the body, which further controls inflammatory symptoms. However, this downtick in the immune system can leave your baby vulnerable to skin infections. Infections are also possible if excess hydrocortisone enters the body.

2. Skin Thinning

A common side effect of hydrocortisone cream is skin thinning. However, this happens if high strength hydrocortisone is used, which will leave the skin fragile and susceptible to injuries. It can also happen if you use a low-concentration cream too frequently or for long periods of time. In fact, it is possible to identify this by the appearance of stretch marks on your baby’s skin.

3. Adrenal Gland Suppression

One of the most dangerous complications that can arise from the long-term use of steroidal medication is the suppression of adrenal gland activity. This is because the adrenal glands produce steroid hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol. Excess hydrocortisone in the body can trick these glands into thinking that enough steroids are present, leading to a drop in production of the hormones.

4. Skin Discoloration

Using hydrocortisone cream for infants skin may cause changes in skin colour, resulting in lightening or darkening of the area you applied the cream on.

5. Allergic Reactions

Some children may be allergic to baby hydrocortisone cream, which results in more significant skin issues.

Alternatives to Hydrocortisone Cream for Infants

If you are looking for an alternative to hydrocortisone cream for your little one, here are some options for you:

  • Anti-allergic medications
  • Skin moisturizing creams, ointments, or lotions
  • Regular baths using baby shampoos
  • Application of breast milk for diaper rash

Can Other Creams Be Applied Along With the Hydrocortisone?

If you are considering using other creams along with hydrocortisone, then don’t. Refrain from applying any other cream such as ointment or salve on your baby’s skin along with hydrocortisone cream. This includes even gentle baby moisturisers. It is prudent that you wait for at least ten to fifteen minutes after applying hydrocortisone if you want to use some other cream on your baby’s skin. Better yet, wait for a few hours before applying any other skin cream. Consult your doctor before you give your child any sort of medication while hydrocortisone is being used on her. This includes drugs like acetaminophen, as well as herbal salves.

Massaging baby

Where to Store the Cream?

Some tips for storing hydrocortisone cream are given below:

  • Ensure the cream or ointment is kept safe and far away from children.
  • Store the medication in the same container that it was sold in.
  • Ideally, you should keep it in a cool and dry place, where there is no direct sunlight or heat. However, don’t keep it in the refrigerator.


1. Can You Apply Hydrocortisone to Your Infant’s Face?

You should not apply hydrocortisone cream to the baby’s face if not advised by the doctor.

2. Can Hydrocortisone Burn My Baby’s Skin?

Long-term use of the cream can result in skin peeling and a burning sensation.

Hydrocortisone cream is very effective for treating skin conditions like eczema in both babies and adults. However, please note that there are several natural remedies that you can opt for which have few or no side effects. These include using cool, moist clothing, oatmeal and baking soda baths, calendula cream, and so on. But you must consult a doctor before trying out these remedies for any skin condition in your baby.


1. Hydrocortisone Cream, Lotion, Ointment, or Solution; my.clevelandclinic.org; https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/18748-hydrocortisone-cream-lotion-ointment-or-solution

2. Hydrocortisone (Topical Application Route); mayoclinic.org; https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/hydrocortisone-topical-application-route/side-effects/drg-20073814?p=1

3. Hydrocortisone Topical; medlineplus.gov; https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682793.html

4. Hydrocortisone (topical) for eczema; medicinesforchildren.org.uk; https://www.medicinesforchildren.org.uk/medicines/hydrocortisone-topical-for-eczema/

5. Hydrocortisone; mskcc.org; https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/medications/pediatric/hydrocortisone-topical

Also Read:

Is Zinc Oxide Safe for Babies?
Is It Safe to Take Antibiotics for Infants?
Amazing Benefits of Calamine Lotion for Babies

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