Your doctor has ordered hydrocortisone, a corticosteroid, to relieve inflammation (swelling, heat, redness, and pain). The drug will be injected into a large muscle (such as your buttock or hip), into your vein, or added to an intravenous fluid that will drip through a needle or catheter placed in your vein.
Hydrocortisone is similar to a natural hormone produced by your adrenal glands. It is used to treat, but not cure, certain forms of arthritis; asthma; and skin, blood, kidney, eye, thyroid, and intestinal disorders. It is sometimes used to reduce side effects from other medications. This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Your healthcare provider (doctor, nurse, or pharmacist) may measure the effectiveness and side effects of your treatment using laboratory tests and physical examinations. It is important to keep all appointments with your doctor. The length of treatment depends on how you respond to the medication.
Before administering hydrocortisone,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to hydrocortisone, medications containing sulfites, 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 medications, aspirin, cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), digoxin (Lanoxin), diuretics ('water pills'), estrogens, ketoconazole (Nizoral), oral contraceptives, phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), rifampin (Rifadin), theophylline (Theo-Dur), and vitamins.
- tell your doctor if you have a fungal infection (other than on your skin); do not use 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); AIDS; or ulcers.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while using hydrocortisone, call your doctor.
- if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking hydrocortisone.
Before you administer hydrocortisone, look at the solution closely. It should be clear and free of floating material. Gently squeeze the bag or observe the solution container to make sure there are no leaks. Do not use the solution if it is discolored, if it contains particles, or if the bag or container leaks. Use a new solution, but show the damaged one to your healthcare provider.
It is important that you use your medication exactly as directed. Do not administer it more often than or for longer periods than your doctor tells you. Do not change your dosing schedule without talking to your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may tell you to stop the infusion if you have a mechanical problem (such as blockage in the tubing, needle or catheter); if you have to stop an infusion, call your healthcare provider immediately so your therapy can continue.
Hydrocortisone may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- unusual moods
- increased sweating
- increased hair growth
- reddened face
- thinned skin
- easy bruising
- tiny purple skin spots
- irregular or absent menstrual periods
If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- skin rash
- swollen feet, ankles, and lower legs
- vision problems
- eye pain
- muscle pain and weakness
- black, tarry stool
- unusual bleeding
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at Web Site] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].
- Your healthcare provider will probably give you a several-day supply of hydrocortisone at a time. You will be told how to prepare each dose.
Store your medication only as directed. Make sure you understand what you need to store your medication properly.
Keep your supplies in a clean, dry place when you are not using them, and keep all medications and supplies out of the reach of children. Your healthcare provider will tell you how to throw away used needles, syringes, tubing, and containers to avoid accidental injury.
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
If you are receiving hydrocortisone in your vein or under your skin, you need to know the symptoms of a catheter-related infection (an infection where the needle enters your vein or skin). If you experience any of these effects near your intravenous catheter, tell your healthcare provider as soon as possible:
AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.
Last Reviewed: October 1, 2010.