How to pick a cortisone cream

Updated February 21, 2017

Cortisone cream is used to treat a variety of medical ailments, including arthritis and skin conditions like eczema. It generally helps reduce inflammation and itchiness associated with these conditions by applying it directly to the skin. Cortisone cream is sold both over the counter and by prescription from a doctor depending on the strength of steroids included in the cream.

Buy hydrocortisone cream or ointment from a pharmacy to treat mild forms of eczema and other skin conditions if recommended by your doctor. Hydrocortisone is the only type of cortisone that can be purchased with a prescription from a doctor. Your doctor may suggest trying this form of cortisone cream to see if alleviates your symptoms before prescribing a stronger form of steroids.

Pick a prescription cortisone cream made of topical steroids to treat more severe conditions, such as arthritis or serious skin conditions. This type of prescription is generally only used when over-the-counter cortisone creams have not been effective or if your symptoms are particularly severe. There are a variety of strengths of prescription cortisone cream depending on the sensitivity of your skin and the type of condition you are suffering.

Determine the appropriate type of cortisone cream based on the part of your body to which you will be applying the cream. Over-the-counter cortisone cream is generally used to treat skin conditions like eczema that occur on sensitive parts of the body like the face and the genitals. Stronger prescription cortisone creams are usually safe for use on the torso, arms and legs regardless of the type of condition that is being treated.

Apply the recommended amounts of cortisone cream to only the parts of your body affected by the condition you are treating, regardless of the strength of the cream that you pick. Prolonged exposure to cortisone cream over several months or years may cause premature aging and thinning of the skin. Short-term use of cortisone cream does not carry significant side effects, but thinning of hair where the cream is applied and skin discoloration are also possible.

Avoid use of stronger types of cortisone cream when used for treatment in children. You should consult your doctor to help pick the appropriate potency of cortisone cream depending on the age of your child, as well as recommendations for antihistamines to be used in conjunction to reduce itching. In rare cases, cortisone can stunt growth in small children.


All types of cortisone cream should only be used under the supervision of a doctor to determine the appropriate strength and length of time of use necessary to treat the condition.

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