Home Steroid Information Topical Steroid Cream Over the Counter: You Can Buy It Without Prescription.

Topical Steroid Cream Over the Counter: You Can Buy It Without Prescription.

Posted by admin in Steroid Information Category. Reviewed and Updated: 1 July, 2019

Corticosteroids belong to steroid hormones, which the adrenal cortex produces. They’re synthetic analogs of endogenous hormones. They treat various diseases, including allergies and autoimmune disorders. Below we’re discussing steroid creams—both prescription and over-the-counter options.

To buy over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, you don’t need a doctor’s prescription. There’s a wide range of various non-prescription topical medications—some relieve itchiness, others help with migraines, and they’re often sought to soothe painful sensations and muscle aches. Tooth decay, athlete’s foot, and a myriad of other issues can be rectified with topical ointments from the aisles of your drugstore.


The American FDA has allowed for the distribution of certain products over the counter. However, the government entity warns that their use is not absolutely safe—there is always a certain degree of risk, however minimal it may be.

When interacting with certain preparations, foods, or supplements, over-the-counter medications can bring on complications. People who suffer from other diseases are also at risk.

You must follow the instructions properly when taking any medicine, and remember, taking OTC medicines for an extended period or in large amounts can be dangerous.

If you don’t experience relief, consult with a healthcare specialist.

During pregnancy, always consult a doctor before administering any medication. Young children also require such attention.

What Does Over-the-Counter Steroid Cream Do?

There’s only one over-the-counter steroid cream available on the market—hydrocortisone. There’s a good deal of hydrocortisone-based creams for eczema and various rashes related to allergies. Whether you need it for a rash on your elbow, for your face, or for your feet, there should be an appropriate option for you.

Hydrocortisone has been around since 1955. In the WHO’s List of Essential Medicines, it’s described as one of the safest drugs on shelves, yet it’s still among the most powerful of medications.

It’s available in generic and branded forms. As of 2018, the average retail price of tablets was $0.14 to $0.24 per pill in developing countries. In the United States, topical ointments cost anywhere between $9.00 to $20.00, sometimes even upwards of $50.00, depending on the substance’s variation and concentration.

Common brand names include Cortoderm Mild Ointment, Cortate, NuCort, Nupercainal HC, Locoid Lipocream, Cetacort, Dermtex-HC, Cortaid, Anusol HC, Summers Eve Special Care, Prevex Hc, Scalpcort, Pandel, Hydrozone Plus, and countless others.

What Are the Key Characteristics of Hydrocortisone Topical Steroid Cream?

Over-the-counter hydrocortisone steroid cream is considered an effective remedy for treating itchy skin, discomfort, painful sensations, and swelling.

Some symptoms of hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and other anus problems can be managed with hydrocortisone cream. It’s also useful for acne treatment.

In addition, there is a vaginal form of the drug on the market, but it’s not produced as a cream. Instead, it comes in vaginal hydrocortisone suppositories to treat vulvovaginal lichen planus and other uncomfortable lesions.

Applying Hydrocortisone Topical Steroid Cream

The application of topical hydrocortisone is straightforward, in most cases. Simply apply a thin film of the ointment to the area of skin in question. Avoid getting it into your mouth and eyes.

When using this skin solution in highly sensitive areas, take care to follow the guidelines on the package closely. We’ll provide an example:

Of course, rectal creams require a bit more preparation and consideration. Follow the recommendations of the healthcare professionals in the instructions on the pack. Before the procedure, clean the affected area with water and soap. Be sure to rinse well and dry with a soft towel, so as not to irritate the skin. For the convenient application of the cream on the surface of the rectum, use the provided applicator tip or cap. Typically, the applicator should be filled with the medicament (in the amount indicated in the directions). Next, place it in the anus (1.5 to 2.5 cm deep) and gently apply the cream inside the rectum.

Keep in mind that if you insert your fingers or other foreign objects into your anus, you may sustain a great injury.

Common Side Effects of Over-the-Counter Steroid Cream

The most typical undesirable effects include burning sensations, itching, redness. In case of these worsening, consult with a physician.

If your healthcare expert attributed this medicament to you, he/she was confident that the risk of side effects and their manifestation would be negligible compared to the benefits. In many cases, treatment is not accompanied at all by any side effect.

In cases of rare, but more severe side effects, like rectal bleeding and sudden skin changes (red color of the skin, skin hardening), contact a healthcare expert immediately.

Sometimes, this medicament can penetrate directly into the blood, which is fraught with undesirable events, characteristic of the abuse of corticosteroids.

Children and patients who have been treated for a long period are more likely to face such adverse events as body weight loss, swelling ankles or feet, intense fatigue, head pain, vision deteriorations, and increased urination.

If you experience signs indicative of infection (cold, fever, etc.) inform your consulting physician immediately.

Steroid creams cannot lead to high testosterone levels. In fact, vice versa, they may lead to its lowering. However, this lowering usually doesn’t require testosterone therapy.

The occurrence of a severe allergic reaction is very rare. Anyway, you should not neglect the following symptoms: itching and swelling, breathing problems, rash, and dizziness. These necessitate a doctor’s visit immediately. These adverse events are not an exhaustive list, should you experience any other strange side effects, always report them to your doctor.

Consider this finding—as stated by Guin JD. (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1981), prolonged and uninterrupted use of hydrocortisone may lead to a rosacea-like eruption, eyelid atrophy, and telangiectasia. The scientist suggested that this therapy should always be intermittent.

What Are the Safety Precautions?

As previously stated, if you intend to use this drug, be sure to notify your doctor or licensed specialist if you have an allergic reaction.

Discuss any illnesses you had earlier or are suffering from now (for example, liver problems, diabetes, eye diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, and so on) with your practitioner.

Corticosteroid medications may adversely affect the response of your body to stress (for example, tension associated with surgical intervention). So, tell your healthcare professional about such upcoming interventions or of any injuries sustained.

Use the drug for treating children with extreme caution. Only apply hydrocortisone to a small zone of the skin. If managing a diaper rash, it’s recommended to use special diapers that fit tightly.

Some experts argue that prolonged use can slow growth in children. To prevent possible worsening, follow changes in your child’s height during the period of the application.

If you’re pregnant, you can use the drug only in exceptional cases. Long-term use can only harm, against which your doctor should warn you.

Hydrocortisone topical is contraindicated for bacteria-caused skin damage, rosacea, skin sores and ulcers, juvenile plantaris dermatosis, and ichthyosis vulgaris.

Prescription Steroid Cream — the List of Remedies

Topical steroids are divided into groups according to their strength. They range from super potent (Class I) to the drugs with the lowest potency of action (Class 7). There are the OTC generic versions of branded topical steroids. Your healthcare professional will prescribe you the generic version if your treatment requires it.

If you must take branded prescription steroid cream, be sure to check more information about it on the official website. Bonus tip—check the possibility of obtaining co-pay assistance.

As an example, Class 2 of topical steroids includes the following drugs:

  • 0.5% halobetasol propionate (Elocon Ointment, Ultravate, Lexette, Betachoice OINT, Halostrol, Halobeta, Halotop, Halovate)
  • Diflorasone diacetate (ApexiCon E Cream, Psorcon, Maxiflor, Florone)
  • 25% desoximetasone (Topicort Cream/Ointment, Topicort LP, Desoxi)
  • 0.1% fluocinonide (Halog Ointment, Vanos, Emderm, Flucin, Fluderm, Flucort, Luci, Lilicort, Supri Cort, Sebowash, Koni, Geolone)

These and other drugs also may be used for psoriasis. If you suffer from fungal infection, ask your pharmacist about antifungal creams in your drugstore.

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