Oral cortisone over the counter: Hydrocortisone (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names
Differences, similarities, and which is better for you
Drug overview & main differences | Conditions treated | Efficacy | Insurance coverage and cost comparison | Side effects | Drug interactions | Warnings | FAQ
When it comes to steroids, hydrocortisone and cortisone are two options your doctor may recommend. Hydrocortisone and cortisone are mild corticosteroids that are mainly used to treat skin conditions, rheumatic diseases, and adrenal disorders.
Hydrocortisone and cortisone are man-made corticosteroid agents that mimic the effects of steroid hormones naturally produced in the body. The steroid hormones produced by the adrenal gland are mineralocorticoid (aldosterone), which plays a role in fluid retention, and glucocorticoid (cortisol), which has anti-inflammatory effects.
Despite their similarities in how they work, hydrocortisone and cortisone have differences in potency, formulation, and usage.
What are the main differences between hydrocortisone vs.
Hydrocortisone (What is Hydrocortisone?) is a generic corticosteroid that is available over-the-counter (OTC) or with a prescription. Brand names of hydrocortisone include Cortef, Cortizone, Anucort-HC, and Preparation H. Hydrocortisone is available as an oral tablet, topical cream, topical lotion, and topical ointment. It also comes as a rectal suppository.
Cortisone (What is Cortisone?) is a generic corticosteroid that is only available with a prescription. Cortisone is taken as an oral tablet and is sometimes known by its brand name, Cortone. Compared to hydrocortisone, cortisone is less potent. This is because cortisone by itself is inactive. After it’s administered, cortisone converts into hydrocortisone, or cortisol, in the liver.
Conditions treated by hydrocortisone vs. cortisone
Both hydrocortisone and cortisone can be used to treat inflammation from a variety of conditions. These corticosteroids can help treat inflammation from allergic conditions, respiratory conditions, gastrointestinal diseases, adrenal gland disorders, and rheumatic conditions. Since steroids are often used to target inflammatory symptoms, they may be used along with other drugs that treat the source of the problem.
Topical hydrocortisone is FDA approved to treat contact dermatitis or skin inflammation from an allergic reaction. Hydrocortisone can also be used to treat skin irritations and itchy symptoms after coming in contact with poison ivy or poison oak. For those who experience bad reactions to insect bites, topical corticosteroids like hydrocortisone can help relieve itchiness and inflammation.
Is hydrocortisone or cortisone more effective?
Hydrocortisone is slightly more potent than cortisone. When comparing doses, 1.25 milligrams of cortisone is equal to 1 milligram of hydrocortisone. Cortisone is inactive until it becomes hydrocortisone through processing in the liver. Since cortisone essentially is hydrocortisone, but with an extra step needed to make it active, it’s not prescribed as often.
Currently, there are no clinical trials that directly compare hydrocortisone and cortisone for a specific condition. Compared to other corticosteroids like prednisone and triamcinolone, hydrocortisone and cortisone are mild and short-acting. Compared to other topical corticosteroids, topical hydrocortisone is considered a low-potency corticosteroid.
It’s recommended to consult a healthcare provider for medical advice before purchasing OTC hydrocortisone. Otherwise, it’s necessary to visit a doctor in order to get a prescription for hydrocortisone or cortisone tablets.
Get the SingleCare prescription discount card
Coverage and cost comparison of hydrocortisone vs. cortisone
Generic versions of hydrocortisone are generally covered by Medicare and other insurance plans. Hydrocortisone can also be found over-the-counter so this may affect the coverage of some plans. A tube of hydrocortisone cream can run for as much as $30. If you have a doctor’s prescription and use a discount card, such as the SingleCare card, hydrocortisone can cost less than $5.
Cortisone tablets can only be purchased with a valid doctor’s prescription. Most Medicare and insurance plans will cover generic cortisone. The average retail cost of cortisone can be as high as $102. You can also use a SingleCare cortisone coupon to pay around $85 for a quantity of 30 tablets.
Common side effects of hydrocortisone vs. cortisone
Hydrocortisone and cortisone, like other corticosteroids, can cause similar side effects. Common side effects of hydrocortisone and cortisone include headache, dizziness, increased sweating, and flushing of the skin. Other side effects may include impaired wound healing, muscle weakness, and high blood pressure. The use of corticosteroids can also lead to sodium and fluid retention, which can manifest as weight gain.
Serious side effects of corticosteroids include allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. The risk of side effects is associated with the dose and duration of treatment. For this reason, hydrocortisone and cortisone are not recommended for long-term use. When used for longer periods of time, corticosteroids can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis, or bone loss, and irregularities in the adrenal gland.
This may not be a complete list of adverse effects that can occur. Please refer to your doctor or healthcare provider to learn more.
Source: DailyMed (Hydrocortisone), DailyMed (Cortisone)
Drug interactions of hydrocortisone vs. cortisone
Hydrocortisone and cortisone are processed in the liver by the CYP3A4 enzyme. Drugs that block, or inhibit, this enzyme can increase hydrocortisone or cortisone levels and increase the risk of side effects. By the same token, drugs that stimulate, or induce, this enzyme can decrease hydrocortisone or cortisone levels and lower their overall effectiveness.
Hydrocortisone and cortisone can interact with CYP3A4 inhibitors such as erythromycin, clarithromycin, isoniazid, and ketoconazole. Hydrocortisone and cortisone can also interact with CYP3A4 inducers such as rifampin, carbamazepine, and phenobarbital.
Since corticosteroids can increase blood sugar levels, dosing may need to be adjusted while taking antidiabetic drugs. Corticosteroids can also affect the blood levels of aspirin and anticoagulants like warfarin.
Corticosteroids can suppress the immune system. Therefore, live vaccines should be avoided while taking corticosteroids because of an increased risk of infection.
Consult a healthcare professional for other possible drug interactions.
Warnings of hydrocortisone vs. cortisone
Staying on corticosteroids for long periods of time can affect how well the adrenal gland is able to produce steroid hormones on its own. This can lead to secondary adrenal insufficiency, which is common after abrupt discontinuation of therapy. Therefore, treatment with corticosteroids should be tapered slowly to avoid possible withdrawal.
Corticosteroids should be used with caution if you have liver damage (cirrhosis) or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
Corticosteroids can suppress growth and development in children. In most cases, hydrocortisone and cortisone should be avoided in children. In some cases, children may be put on corticosteroids in controlled doses.
Using corticosteroids can increase the risk of infections. Corticosteroids can act as immunosuppressants, which can lower your body’s ability to fight off infections.
Consult your healthcare provider for other precautions while taking hydrocortisone or cortisone.
Frequently asked questions about hydrocortisone vs. cortisone
What is hydrocortisone?
Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid used to treat inflammation caused by different conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and ulcerative colitis. Hydrocortisone is available in oral and topical forms. Topical hydrocortisone is used to treat contact dermatitis and other inflammatory skin diseases. Brand names of hydrocortisone include Cortef and Hydrocort.
What is cortisone?
Cortisone is a corticosteroid prescribed to treat inflammatory symptoms that occur from a variety of conditions. It is also known by the brand name Cortone, which has been discontinued. Cortisone is available as a 25 mg oral tablet that is usually taken multiple times per day for several days depending on the condition being treated.
Are hydrocortisone and cortisone the same?
Hydrocortisone and cortisone are identical short-acting corticosteroids. However, they are not the same. Cortisone is an inactive prodrug that is converted into hydrocortisone, or cortisol, in the liver. Hydrocortisone works as a topical medication whereas cortisone is not as effective as a topical treatment.
Is hydrocortisone or cortisone better?
Hydrocortisone is more potent than cortisone (1 mg of hydrocortisone is equivalent to 1.25 mg of cortisone). Hydrocortisone is also available over-the-counter as a topical cream, lotion, or ointment for skin conditions. Your doctor may prescribe hydrocortisone or cortisone after a complete evaluation of your condition.
Can I use hydrocortisone or cortisone while pregnant?
Low-dose corticosteroids may sometimes be used during pregnancy. However, because of their risk of side effects, such as high blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels, and fluid retention, corticosteroids should only be used if the benefits outweigh the risks. Consult a healthcare provider on the safety of corticosteroids during pregnancy.
Can I use hydrocortisone vs. cortisone with alcohol?
Corticosteroids and alcohol are not generally recommended to be taken together. Drinking alcohol regularly can alter blood sugar levels and affect the immune system. The side effects of corticosteroids and alcohol can overlap and lead to harmful situations.
Is hydrocortisone a corticosteroid?
Hydrocortisone is a synthetic corticosteroid. Its effects mimic those of the naturally produced glucocorticoid, cortisol. Compared to other corticosteroids, hydrocortisone is considered a low-potency corticosteroid.
What does cortisone treat?
Cortisone is used as an anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant drug. It can treat inflammation from skin diseases, lung conditions, autoimmune disorders, and infections. Cortisone can also be used to treat allergic reactions and severe asthma episodes.
Cortisone, Oral Tablet
Highlights for cortisone
- Cortisone oral tablet is only available as a generic drug. It doesn’t have a brand-name version.
- Cortisone only comes as a tablet you take by mouth.
- Cortisone oral tablet is used to treat a variety of conditions. These can include adrenocortical insufficiency, arthritis, allergies, and ulcerative colitis. It’s also used to treat anemia, lupus, and skin conditions, including severe psoriasis.
- Chickenpox and measles warning: This drug can weaken your body’s ability to fight infections. Try to stay away from people who have chickenpox or measles, especially if you haven’t been vaccinated or haven’t had these diseases before. Call your doctor right away if you have contact with anyone who has these diseases while you’re taking this drug.
- Infections warning: You shouldn’t take this drug if you have an infection. These include fungal, bacterial, or viral infections. Cortisone can weaken your body’s response to infections. This means that your infection may be severe or even fatal (cause death). This drug can also cover up symptoms of infection. If you have any signs of infection, call your doctor right away.
Cortisone oral tablet is a prescription drug. It’s only available as a generic drug.
Why it’s used
Cortisone helps to decrease inflammation and immune responses. It can also be used as replacement therapy for certain hormones.
This drug is used to treat several conditions. These include:
- adrenal insufficiency
- arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- allergic conditions, such as seasonal allergies
- ulcerative colitis
- skin conditions, such as severe psoriasis
How it works
Cortisone belongs to a class of drugs called glucocorticoids. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.
Cortisone is a steroid drug. It helps decrease swelling and inflammation in your body. It works by stopping the release of molecules that cause inflammation. This also stops your body from having an immune response.
Cortisone oral tablet doesn’t cause drowsiness. However, it can cause other side effects.
More common side effects
The more common side effects of cortisone can include:
- skin problems, including:
- thin skin
- heavy sweating
- trouble sleeping
- weight gain
If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Serious side effects
Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:
- Allergic reactions. Symptoms can include:
- skin rash
- swelling of your face, lips, or tongue
- Fluid and electrolyte problems. These can include:
- fluid retention
- heart failure, with symptoms such as:
- shortness of breath
- fast heart rate
- swelling of your arms and legs
- high blood pressure
- Muscle problems. Symptoms can include:
- muscle weakness
- broken bones in your spine
- tendon rupture
- Stomach problems. These can include:
- peptic ulcer, with symptoms such as:
- upper stomach pain
- black, tarry stools
- pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), with symptoms such as:
- upper stomach pain
- peptic ulcer, with symptoms such as:
- Slowed growth in children
- Glaucoma. Symptoms can include:
- blurry vision
- double vision
- eye pain
Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
Cortisone oral tablet can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.
To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Examples of drugs that can cause interactions with cortisone are listed below.
Drugs you should not use with cortisone
Do not receive live vaccines while you’re taking cortisone. Examples of these drugs include:
- live flu vaccine
- measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR)
If you receive a live vaccine, your body might not be able to build up resistance to the virus in the vaccine. The virus can spread in your body and cause an infection.
Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Cortisone oral tablet comes with several warnings.
Cortisone can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:
- skin rash
- itching or hives
- swelling of your face, lips, or tongue
If you have an allergic reaction, call your doctor or local poison control center right away. If your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).
Warnings for people with certain health conditions
For people with infections: Don’t take this drug if you have a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection. Cortisone can weaken your body’s response to infections. This can be severe or fatal. The drug can also cover up the symptoms of an infection.
For people with high blood pressure or heart problems: This drug can raise your blood pressure. It can also make heart conditions worse.
For people with diabetes: Ask your doctor if this drug is safe for you. Cortisone can increase your blood sugar. You may need to test your blood sugar level more often. Your doctor may also change the dosage of your diabetes drugs.
For people with glaucoma or eye problems: This drug increases your risk of eye infections. Ask your doctor if this drug is safe for you.
For people with stomach or intestinal problems: This drug can irritate your stomach and intestines. This can make your condition worse. Ask your doctor if this drug is safe for you.
For people with liver problems: Ask your doctor if this drug is safe for you. It may make your liver problems worse.
For people with kidney problems: Ask your doctor if this drug is safe for you. It may make your kidney problems worse.
For people with seizures: Ask your doctor if this drug is safe for you. It may make your condition worse.
For people with psychiatric and mood disorders: Ask your doctor if this drug is safe for you. It may make your condition worse.
Warnings for other groups
For pregnant women: There has not been enough research done on the use of cortisone in pregnant women. Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Ask your doctor to tell you about the specific harm that may be done to the fetus. This drug should only be used if the potential risk is acceptable given the drug’s potential benefit.
Call your doctor right away if you become pregnant while taking this drug.
For women who are breastfeeding: This drug may pass into breast milk and cause side effects in a child who is breastfed. These side effects include slowed growth and development. Talk to your doctor about breastfeeding your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breastfeeding or stop taking this medication.
For children: It has not been confirmed that cortisone is safe and effective for use in people younger than 18 years.
This dosage information is for cortisone oral tablet. All possible dosages and forms may not be included here. Your dose, form, and how often you take it will depend on:
- your age
- the condition being treated
- how severe your condition is
- other medical conditions you have
- how you react to the first dose
Forms and strengths
- Form: Oral tablet
- Strengths: 25 mg
Dosage for all conditions
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)
- Typical dosage: 25–300 mg per day. Your doctor will decide your dosage depending on your condition.
Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)
Cortisone has not been confirmed as safe and effective for use in people younger than 18 years.
Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Cortisone oral tablet is used for both short-term and long-term treatment. The length of your treatment will depend on your condition. It comes with risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.
If you stop taking this drug suddenly or don’t take it at all: You may have withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking this drug suddenly. If you need to stop taking it, your doctor will slowly reduce your dosage over time.
If you don’t take this drug at all, your condition won’t be treated and may get worse.
If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule: Your medication may not work as well or may stop working completely. For this drug to work well, a certain amount needs to be in your body at all times.
If you take too much: You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. Symptoms of an overdose of this drug can include:
- insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep)
- increased appetite
If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or seek guidance from the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or through their online tool. But if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.
What to do if you miss a dose: Take it as soon as you remember. If it’s almost time for your next dose, call your doctor or pharmacist. You might need to miss a dose or take an extra dose depending on the condition you’re treating. Don’t take an extra dose without checking with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to tell if the drug is working: You should have fewer symptoms and decreased inflammation.
Keep these considerations in mind if your doctor prescribes cortisone oral tablet for you.
- Take cortisone with food and a glass of water. This may help reduce upset stomach.
- Take this drug in the morning.
- You can cut or crush the oral tablet
- Store cortisone at room temperature. Keep it between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C).
- Keep this drug away from light.
- Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.
A prescription for this medication is refillable. You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your prescription.
When traveling with your medication:
- Always carry your medication with you. When flying, never put it into a checked bag. Keep it in your carry-on bag.
- Don’t worry about airport X-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
- You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled container with you.
- Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.
You and your doctor should monitor certain health issues during your treatment. This can help make sure you stay safe while you take this drug. These issues include:
- blood pressure levels
- blood sugar levels (if you have diabetes)
- potassium levels
This drug may cause you to retain salt and water. It may also affect your potassium levels. Your doctor may tell you to take potassium supplements or reduce how much salt you eat.
Not every pharmacy stocks this drug. When filling your prescription, be sure to call ahead to make sure your pharmacy carries it.
There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.
Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
What is a yeast infection?
Most healthy women have yeast in their vagina. But sometimes the yeast grows too strong and leads to infection. Yeast infections can be very annoying and unpleasant.
What causes yeast infections?
Vaginal yeast infection, also sometimes called vulvovaginal candidiasis, occurs when the healthy yeast that normally lives in the vagina gets out of control. This often results in itching and other annoying symptoms. The medical name for a yeast infection is “ candidiasis ” because they are usually caused by a type of yeast called candida.
When the immune system is reduced, the normal yeast that lives in the vagina can grow too large and lead to infection. Causes that may cause changes in your vaginal environment:
- normal changes in hormone levels (as during the menstrual cycle)
- antibiotics, cortisone and other drugs
- diabetes mellitus
- weak immune system
- natural reaction to another person’s genital chemistry
Yeast infections can also occur on the penises and scrotum, but not as often. They can cause redness and irritation on your penis or scrotum.
Yeast infections are not STDs (these are infections that are passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal and oral sex). They are not contagious and cannot be passed on to another person during sex. But sexual contact sometimes leads to yeast infections—your body chemistry can react to the other person’s natural genital yeast and the bacteria that causes the yeast to grow.
People can also get a yeast infection in their mouth, throat, or tongue—this is called thrush.
What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?
Yeast infections often cause a curdled, white, lumpy vaginal discharge that usually does not smell (or smells only slightly different than usual).
Most yeast infections result in itching, burning and/or redness in or around the vagina. Vaginal itching usually gets worse the longer you have the infection. Sex may be uncomfortable or painful. In extreme cases, you may get cracks or sores on your vagina or vulva. If you have severe irritation, you may experience pain when urinating.
How to treat yeast infections?
Yeast infections can usually be easily treated in a few days with an antifungal medication. You can purchase medicated creams or suppositories for yeast infections.
Be sure to follow instructions and take all medicines, even if your symptoms go away before you are done. You can also treat yeast infections with one tablet (diflucan or fluconazole). Need a prescription from a doctor to get a yeast infection pill.
Do not have vaginal or oral sex until you have completed treatment and the infection has gone. Friction from sex may cause more irritation or make treatment more difficult. Some medications you use inside your vagina contain oil, which can cause condoms to break.
Even though yeast infections can be very itchy, try not to scratch the itch. This can aggravate irritation or scratch the skin, through which germs can spread and lead to more infections. There are over-the-counter creams that can be used on the vulva to soothe irritation. Your doctor can also give you tips to relieve burning and itching.
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