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What does it do?

Hydrocortisone is a steroid medicine used to treat and prevent a variety of conditions that involve inflammation. It is also used to replace natural steroids if your body cannot produce enough.

How should you take it?

Take hydrocortisone regularly as directed. Take with food and a glass of water.

What if you forget a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as possible. If it is close to the time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and carry on as normal. Do not take two doses at the same time.

Can you take other medicines?

Some medicines available without a prescription may react with hydrocortisone including:

  • anti-inflammatories, such as diclofenac (e.g. Voltaren®), ibuprofen (e.g. Nurofen®), or aspirin (e.g. Disprin®, in doses used for pain relief). These can also be found in some cold and flu medicines (e.g. Nurofen Cold and Flu®).

Tell your pharmacist or doctor about all medicines or treatments that you may be taking, including vitamins, herbal products or recreational drugs.

What side effects might you notice?

Side EffectsRecommended action

Changes in vision

Peeing more often, feeling thirsty

Muscle or bone aches and pains

Tell your doctor

Mood changes, restlessness, trouble sleeping

Weight gain, swollen feet or legs

Thinning of skin, acne

Tell your doctor if troublesome

Stomach upset

Take with food and tell your doctor if symptoms persist

If you notice any other effects, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Other information:

  • Long term use of steroids may be associated with a range of side effects such as: round face, change in body shape, change in hair growth, thinning of the bones, increased blood pressure and diabetes.
  • If you take hydrocortisone for a long time, infections may be worse or more common. Contact your doctor if you become unwell or come into contact with someone who has a contagious illness such as chicken pox or measles.
  • If you take hydrocortisone in large doses or for a long time, it is dangerous to stop taking it suddenly. Your doctor may reduce the dose gradually when it is time to stop.
  • Hydrocortisone affects your immune system. Before you start and while you are using it, check with your doctor what vaccines you might need. You should not have a live vaccine while using it.
  • Tell your doctor if you have thyroid, stomach, heart, kidney or liver problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, osteoporosis (weak bones), a mood disorder, or if you have ever had a seizure.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding.
  • It is important to tell anyone who gives you medical or dental treatment that you are taking hydrocortisone.

This leaflet contains important, but not all, information about this medicine.

Prepared by the PILs Committee at Christchurch Hospital, Canterbury District Health Board, New Zealand. September 2018

For more general information about this sheet and its contents, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

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About My Medicines

My Medicines Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) contain important, but not all, information about the medicines they describe.

For more information about the sheets, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

My Medicines is developed by a team at the Canterbury District Health Board. Our team is made up of doctors, pharmacists, and a non-medical person to help us keep to plain language. We also discuss our information with specialist health professionals or groups when needed