Things to consider when using topical corticosteroids  

Most people can use topical corticosteroids safely, but there are situations when they aren't recommended.

Skin infections

Topical corticosteroids shouldn't usually be used on infected skin, as they could make the infection worse.

However, they can be used to treat infected skin on the advice of your doctor if you use a topical corticosteroid that has been combined with medication to specifically treat the infection, such as an antibiotic.

Certain skin conditions

Certain skin conditions including rosacea, acne and skin ulcers (open sores) can be made worse by topical corticosteroids, so they should be avoided.

Pregnancy

Most topical corticosteroids are considered safe to use during pregnancy. However, using very potent topical corticosteroids is not usually recommended during pregnancy, because research has found they may increase the risk of giving birth to a baby with a low birthweight.

Breastfeeding

Mild, moderate and potent topical corticosteroids are also considered safe to use when breastfeeding. However, you should wash off any steroid cream applied to your breasts before feeding your baby.

As a precaution, very potent topical corticosteroids are not recommended to use while breastfeeding because their safety is uncertain.

Young children

Children can safely use mild to moderate topical corticosteroids. Potent and very potent topical corticosteroids are not usually recommended, particularly in very young children, because they carry a greater risk of causing side effects than in adults.

However, exceptions can be made if your child has severe symptoms and it is felt that the benefit of treatment outweighs the risks of side effects. For example, potent topical corticosteroids are sometimes recommended for treating cases of severe atopic eczema, usually under the supervision of a dermatologist (skin care specialist).

Page last reviewed: 15/12/2014

Next review due: 15/12/2016