Hydrocortisone 1 For Baby

It is common knowledge among parents and other caregivers that infants have delicate skin. It is not unusual for a baby to experience skin irritation, particularly in the first couple of years of life, particularly in the form of a diaper rash or baby eczema.

It is natural for parents to look for treatments that can calm and heal their children’s irritated skin because no one wants to see their child in discomfort.

Although hydrocortisone cream is often recommended as a treatment for adults or children who are older, you may be curious about whether or not it is secure for use on infants.

Is hydrocortisone cream safe for babies?

The short answer is… maybe. There’s no concrete consensus. While some experts have a strict no-hydrocortisone-cream policy for babies, others say you can use it as long as you follow certain instructions.

Specifically, the concern is that the affected area shouldn’t be covered during use. But if you use hydrocortisone cream to treat diaper rash, there’s a chance that baby’s skin will absorb more of the hydrocortisone than if the irritated area were left uncovered.

So, if you want to use hydrocortisone cream to use diaper rash and your doctor approves, you should avoid putting tight-fitting diapers or plastic pants on your baby.

Likewise, many experts recommend shortening the maximum usage period from 7 days to 4 or 5 days.

What is hydrocortisone cream?

Let’s talk about what hydrocortisone cream is. Officially, it’s classified as a corticosteroid.

Don’t be afraid of the “steroid” in corticosteroid. This isn’t the same kind of steroid that you hear about in the news, taken by athletes as performance-enhancing drugs.

There are a few main ways you can use hydrocortisone, but the primary option that most people are familiar with is topical, usually in the form of a cream. It can also be found as a:

  • spray
  • ointment
  • lotion
  • liquid

What is hydrocortisone cream used for?

As a topical treatment, hydrocortisone cream is designed to manage skin discomforts such as redness, itching, and swelling associated with:

It’s readily available as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication since you don’t usually need a prescription to obtain it. You can easily find a topical 1 percent hydrocortisone cream in drugstores or the medication aisle of supermarkets and big box stores.

There are also stronger versions you can obtain, but you’ll need a prescription to do so.

Usually, the instructions recommend that you only apply OTC hydrocortisone cream for a maximum of 7 days. During that time, you’re instructed to apply a thin layer to the affected area anywhere from one to four times per day.

However, it shouldn’t be applied to broken skin or delicate areas, such as in your eyes, or taken orally. And most experts recommend that any area where hydrocortisone cream is applied should be left uncovered unless instructed otherwise by a physician.

If after 7 days your condition hasn’t improved, you should stop using it and speak with a doctor.

What are the side effects or risks of hydrocortisone cream?

Side effects from excessive exposure to hydrocortisone cream can include:

  • slow wound healing
  • changes in skin color
  • sensations of burning, tingling, or a prickly feeling
  • dryness or cracking at the application site
  • area of irritation expanding
  • increased hair growth

But specifically in children, excessive exposure to hydrocortisone cream over larger areas of the body has been linked with slower growth and delayed weight gain, according to the National Eczema Association.

Because of that risk, many physicians recommend that if you child is younger than 2 years old, you shouldn’t treat their skin irritations with hydrocortisone at all.

Are there alternatives to hydrocortisone creams for babies?

If the idea of exposing your child to additional discomfort or developmental issues down the road is making you think twice about using hydrocortisone cream to treat a diaper rash or baby eczema, know that you’re not alone.

While hydrocortisone cream is an effective treatment, there are plenty of alternatives that pose a lower risk to your baby. You can begin with assessing possible contributing factors and follow up with natural or nonmedicated treatment options.

Identify and address the cause of the itching

When your baby has a diaper rash, there’s little doubt as to what’s causing the skin irritation. But if your child suffers from baby eczema, there may be other factors at play, like your bathing routine (yes, it’s possible!) or food sensitivities.


To care for skin with eczema, experts recommend a specific routine for bathing to maintain moisture:

  1. Use lukewarm water.
  2. Bathe the area for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Use gentle cleansers and avoid scrubbing.
  4. Lightly pat dry.
  5. Within 3 minutes, liberally apply moisturizer.
  6. Wait a few minutes for the skin to absorb the moisturizer before dressing.


For babies who are exclusively breastfed, consider the diet of the breastfeeding parent. If your baby’s eczema worsens shortly after you eat a specific food, they may have a food sensitivity.

Keeping a detailed food journal can help you identify this issue. Doctors don’t suggest simply eliminating foods without good cause, so take some time to verify that that’s the reason.

And for formula-fed babies, it’s not advised to constantly switch out brands of formula since some children develop skin irritations from ingredients in formulas, too. Instead, work with your pediatrician to identify and eliminate any possible issues.

Household products

Also consider household products. It’s possible that baby’s skin irritation is caused by your detergent or soap, especially if it includes dyes or perfumes — common household irritants.

If you suspect that your laundry detergent is the culprit, consider switching to either a plant-based formula or one that’s free of color dyes and chemical fragrances when you wash anything that might come into contact with your baby.

Likewise, make sure that any soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and lotions you’re using on your baby are designed with delicate skin in mind.

Other considerations

Other hidden causes, like dressing your baby in synthetic fibers or clothing that’s too tight, can also contribute to skin irritation.

And if you have a habit of waiting longer to change wet diapers, make it a point to address all diaper changes as soon as possible to keep your baby’s skin clean and dry.

Natural solutions for baby’s itchy skin

If you’ve pinpointed an underlying behavioral cause of your baby’s irritated skin and you’ve already addressed those issues, it’s time to focus on treating the current irritation.

Keep in mind that every baby’s skin is different, and while the below solutions are generally considered safe, a child can be allergic to any of these natural remedies.

Colloidal oatmeal

If your baby has extensive skin irritation, consider switching your regular bath time soap for colloidal oatmeal. This naturally occurring ingredient can help soothe dry or itchy skin and is easily found at places that also sell health and beauty products.

Be mindful to use warm — not hot — water for oatmeal baths and to keep bath time to a maximum of 20 minutes. Be sure to gently pat your baby dry after bath time and immediately follow up with a thick cream moisturizer.

Castor oil

Castor oil is a multifaceted natural oil that’s been linked with improved hair growth and helps deeply moisturize dry skin. While it can be a little heavy as a moisturizer, it’s great to use alone without the need for a carrier oil to promote wound healing for skin irritation.

Specifically, the oil helps maintain a moist skin environment that encourages healing and prevents the affected area from drying out. It can also stimulate tissue growth and work as a barrier between the skin and the outside environment to prevent the risk of infection.

For the best results and to minimize the risk of an adverse reaction, look for options that say a cold-pressed process was used to extract the oil from the castor seeds and that don’t contain fillers. This will reduce the risk that harsh chemicals were used during the production process.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is another great natural option that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. While most people are familiar with coconut oil for cooking or beauty routines, the oil also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

study from 2019Trusted Source considered the use of virgin coconut oil and found that it provides anti-inflammatory benefits as well as skin protection, improving the skin barrier.

Just like with castor oil, look for virgin coconut oil products that are made with cold-pressed processing and don’t contain any fillers to minimize the risk of chemicals being used during production.

Cream-based moisturizers

There are a variety of cream moisturizers and emollients designed specifically for sensitive skin.

Whether they contain ceramides or are made from oils derived from vegetables, these moisturizers are significantly thicker than traditional lotions and are incredibly effective at keeping parched or irritated skin properly moisturized.

They also help create an effective barrier to prevent irritation from recurring, according to a 2013 research reviewTrusted Source.

For best results, these moisturizers should be applied immediately after bathing and as needed throughout the day.

What Is 1% Hydrocortisone Ointment Used For?

Hydrocortisone topical is used to help relieve redness, itching, swelling, or other discomfort caused by skin conditions. This medicine is a corticosteroid (cortisone-like medicine or steroid). This medicine is available both over-the-counter (OTC) and with your doctor’s prescription

Best Hydrocortisone Cream For Babies

Babies can experience itchy, red skin for a variety of reasons. Their skin is sensitive and easily irritated. While hydrocortisone cream is a go-to for adults with irritated skin, it typically is not recommended for children under the age of 2 unless otherwise directed by a healthcare provider.

This article will discuss hydrocortisone cream and babies, and other ways to treat itchy skin. 

Close-Up Of Cute Baby Boy With Skin Allergy Lying On Bed - stock photo
Narong Jongsirikul / EyeEm

What Is Hydrocortisone Cream?

Hydrocortisone cream is a topical corticosteroid medication. It works by activating the natural substances in the skin that can reduce swelling.1 

It is used to treat skin conditions that cause redness, swelling, or itching of the skin. Hydrocortisone cream can help to relieve these symptoms but will not cure the underlying cause. Hydrocortisone cream should always be used exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider.1

Unless directed by a pediatrician or other healthcare provider, hydrocortisone cream is generally not recommended for babies under the age of 2 due to potential health risks associated with it. Although harmful side effects are rare, children who use hydrocortisone cream regularly for a long time may be more likely to experience slowed growth rates and delayed weight gain.2

 3 Ways Topical Steroids Reduce Skin Inflammation

Side Effects and Risks

Common side effects of hydrocortisone cream include skin dryness and irritation, as well as increased hair growth. Side effects to report to your healthcare provider include:1 

What Is Making My Baby Itch? 

The best way to treat your baby’s itchy skin is to determine the underlying cause. From there, you and your child’s pediatrician will be able to determine the right treatment plan for your little one. 

Diaper Rash (Baby Contact Dermatitis)

Diaper rash is a common skin condition that most babies experience at some point. It occurs when the skin under the diaper breaks down and causes a red rash. 

 Identify and Treat a Yeast Diaper Rash at Home

Common symptoms of diaper rash are redness and irritation on the skin under the diaper. Diaper rash can be very uncomfortable. If home remedies are not effective, see your primary care provider or pediatrician. 

Treatments and Home Remedies for Diaper Rash

The key to treating diaper rash is prevention. Help your child avoid diaper rash by changing dirty diapers (even wet ones) as soon as possible. When moisture is trapped in the diaper, skin breakdown can occur. Other diaper rash remedies include:3

  • Gentle cleansing: To prevent diaper rash from becoming infected, it is important to keep your child’s skin clean and dry. Use a warm washcloth or alcohol-free wipes when changing your child’s diaper. If the rash is severe, use a squirt bottle with warm water to avoid rubbing the skin. 
  • Going diaper-free: Once you have washed your child’s skin, allow them to remain diaper-free as long as possible. This allows the skin to air dry, which can lead to quicker healing. 
  • Zinc oxide: Choose a diaper rash cream that contains zinc oxide and use it frequently when your child has diaper rash. Apply a thick layer with each diaper change and continue using until your child’s skin heals. 

Baby Eczema

Eczema refers to a group of conditions that cause the skin to become irritated, red, itchy, and swollen. Eczema is relatively common in babies and young children. It is not contagious and cannot be passed from person-to-person. 

 When Your Baby Has Eczema

Eczema usually appears as a red, itchy rash. Babies usually experience eczema on their face and scalp. The skin may drain clear liquid as well. As babies age, you may notice eczema patches on their elbows and knees. 

Toddlers usually get eczema on their elbows, knees, wrists, hands, and ankles. They may have dry, scaly patches around their mouths and eyes too.4 

Treatments and Home Remedies for Eczema

One of the most effective treatments for eczema in babies is to avoid your child’s triggers.5 These can include saliva, sweat, dry air, tobacco smoke, pet dander, or other irritants. If you are able to determine your child’s triggers, work with your healthcare provider to come up with a plan for avoiding them. In addition, eczema treatments for babies include:67

  • Moisturization: Apply a thick, quality moisturizer to your child’s skin at least twice a day.
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors: These medications (recommended for children over the age of 2) can help to prevent redness and itching in the skin. 
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be needed if a patch of skin becomes infected due to scratching.
  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines can help to relieve the itching associated with eczema. 
  • Steroid creams: Your healthcare provider may recommend a short course of steroid cream to get your child’s eczema symptoms under control. 
  • Oatmeal bath: Adding colloidal oatmeal to your little one’s bath may reduce itching.
  • Cool compress: Apply a cool, wet washcloth to your child’s skin to help ease the redness and itching. 
  • Prevent scratching: It is natural for babies and young children with eczema to scratch their skin. This can make eczema worse and lead to infection. Try to keep any eczema areas of the skin covered and keep your child’s nails trimmed. 

Foods to Avoid

Eczema flares can be caused by allergens. If your little one is allergic to a certain food or group of foods, they could experience a flare (worsening of symptoms) in their eczema symptoms anytime they come in contact with it. However, it can be difficult to determine if your child’s eczema is related to food allergies because skin allergic reactions may occur days after exposure. Practitioners generally do not recommend elimination diets for eczema.8 

If you are concerned that your child’s eczema gets worse after eating certain food, talk with your healthcare provider. They may recommend temporarily removing dairy or processed foods from your child’s diet and observing their skin for changes. 

 Is There Such Thing as a Diet for Eczema?

Bathing Babies With Eczema

Daily baths are an important part of eczema treatment in babies. First, the bath works to remove dirt and other irritants from the skin. After the bath, gently pat your baby’s skin dry and apply a thick moisturizing cream to help lock in moisture. Eczema skin is very dry, so using a moisturizer after bathing can be very effective. Be sure to use lukewarm water in your child’s bath and avoid any soaps that contain dyes, fragrances, or harsh additives.9 


Allergic dermatitis refers to skin irritation caused by an allergic reaction. Substances like fragrances, nickel, and poison ivy can cause an itchy, red rash when they touch the skin. It’s also possible to experience skin irritation from substances like detergents or soaps. These substances can cause irritant contact dermatitis and are not considered allergic reactions.10 

Skin allergies in babies can present as:10

  • Red, itchy rash
  • Blisters
  • Burning
  • Difficulty sleeping 

Treatments and Home Remedies

Depending on which allergen caused your baby’s skin irritation, the treatment options will vary. Your doctor may recommend a short-term course of steroids to ease the symptoms.11 From there, your medical team will work with you to determine which substances irritate your baby’s skin and how to avoid them.12 

Natural Solutions for Baby’s Itchy Skin

If you are interested in pursuing natural remedies for your baby’s itchy skin, focus on products that add moisture back into the skin. Always talk with your healthcare provider or pediatrician before implementing a new natural product into your baby’s skin-care routine. Some natural solutions are:

  • Coconut oil has been found to be a safe and effective treatment for dry skin. It moisturizes the skin while improving the skin’s barrier function, but more study is needed to establish it as an effective treatment for eczema.13 Also, in rare cases, people can be allergic to coconut oil.
  • Colloidal oatmeal or oat oil can add moisture and decrease inflammation. Oats have antioxidant properties that may be helpful in promoting wound healing.13

To help prevent skin irritation, wash your baby’s clothes in a gentle detergent that is free of scents. Look for baby products that are free of dyes, scents, or other additives.

Baby-Safe Cream Moisturizers and Ointments

Most babies with red, itchy, irritated skin require regular moisturization.14 Talk with your healthcare provider about the following types of moisturizers for your baby’s itchy skin:

  • Humectants like glycerin and urea attract water from the environment and the skin’s surface into deeper layers of skin. They also help the skin to shed dead cells and appear healthier. 
  • Occlusives like beeswax and mineral oil increase the water content of the skin by preventing water loss through evaporation. They are most effective when applied to damp skin, such as after toweling off from a shower. 
  • Emollients like lanolin and propylene glycol linoleate act as lubricants that fill in the crevices between skin cells. They improve skin’s hydration and smoothness. 

 How Is Moisturizing Important in Anti Aging Skin Care?


Hydrocortisone cream is a topical corticosteroid medication used to treat redness, itching, and swelling in the skin. It is generally not recommended for children under age 2 unless directed by your healthcare provider. Your baby’s skin may itch because of diaper rash, eczema, allergies, or other health conditions. 

A Word From Verywell 

When your baby is uncomfortable, it is natural to want to relieve that discomfort as soon as possible. Fortunately, there are several tools you can try to soothe your baby’s itching without using hydrocortisone cream. Talk with your healthcare provider about natural remedies and prescription medications. 

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