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Fluticasone skin creams - Brand name: Cutivate

1. About fluticasone skin creams

Fluticasone cream and ointment are used to treat itching, swollen and irritated skin. They can help with conditions such as:

Fluticasone skin creams are available on prescription only.

They are stronger than other skin creams such as hydrocortisone. Fluticasone cream has more fluticasone in it than the ointment. Although they are different strengths, both work well for treating skin conditions. 

Fluticasone is a type of medicine known as a steroid (also called a corticosteroid). This is not the same as an anabolic steroid.

It also comes as an inhaler, nebuliser, and nasal (nose) spray or drops. Read about:

2. Key facts

  • You're unlikely to have side effects from fluticasone skin cream or ointment (if you follow the instructions).
  • Creams are better for skin which is moist or weepy. Ointments are thicker and greasier and better for dry or flaky skin.
  • Only use fluticasone on your face if your doctor says it's OK to.
  • Do not give fluticasone to children under the age of 3 months.
  • Fluticasone will not help with skin conditions such as acne and rosacea.

3. Who can and cannot use fluticasone skin creams

Most adults and children over the age of 3 months can use fluticasone.

Fluticasone may not be suitable for some people. Tell a pharmacist or doctor before taking it if you: 

  • have ever had an allergic reaction to fluticasone or any other medicine in the past
  • have broken skin, cuts, or itchy skin which is not inflamed or red
  • have a skin infection - using fluticasone can make a skin infection worse or cause it to spread
  • have acne or rosacea
  • have an eye infection
  • are trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or you're breastfeeding

4. How and when to use fluticasone skin creams

Fluticasone is available as cream and ointment.

Always follow the instructions from a pharmacist, doctor or the leaflet that comes with your medicine.

Most people only need to use fluticasone cream or ointment once or twice a day for up to 4 weeks. Only use it for longer than 4 weeks if your doctor tells you to.

If you use it twice a day, try to leave a gap of 8 to 12 hours between doses.

How much to put on

The amount of cream or ointment you need to use is sometimes measured in fingertip units. This is the amount of cream or ointment you can squeeze onto the end of your finger.

As a general rule, a fingertip unit of cream is enough to treat an area that's twice the size of the palm of your hand. 

A person's hand with the index finger extended, showing a strip of cream from the fingertip down to the first joint of the finger, approximately 1cm to 2cm long
A fingertip unit of cream
Credit:

Mark Thomas/Science Photo Library

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/463425/view

For babies and children, the right amount of cream or ointment depends on their age. A doctor or pharmacist can advise you.

How to put it on

  1. Wash your hands and then squeeze out the right amount.
  2. Spread the cream or ointment in a thin layer over the area of irritated skin.
  3. Carefully smooth it into your skin in the direction that your hair grows.
  4. Use the cream or ointment on all the irritated skin, not just the worst areas.
  5. Be careful not to get the cream or ointment on broken skin or cuts.
  6. Wash your hands afterwards (unless you are treating the skin on your hands).

Do not use fluticasone skin cream or ointment at the same time as any other creams or ointments, such as a moisturiser. Wait at least 30 minutes before using any other skin product after you put on fluticasone cream or ointment.

If you need to use a dressing, like a bandage or plaster, wait at least 10 minutes after putting fluticasone on. 

If you're treating a child, do not cover the cream or ointment with dressings or bandages. Using a dressing or bandage can increase the chance of side effects.

How long will I use it for?

Most people only need to use fluticasone cream or ointment for a short time, usually up to 4 weeks. This is to get the inflammation under control.

If your skin condition is hard to control, your doctor may tell you to use fluticasone for more than 4 weeks.

What if I use too much?

Using too much fluticasone by accident is unlikely to harm you.

If you're worried, talk to a doctor or pharmacist.

What if I forget to put it on?

If you forget to use your cream or ointment, do not worry. Use it as soon as you remember, unless it's nearly time for your next dose. In this case, skip the missed dose and apply the next one at the usual time.

5. Side effects

Fluticasone skin cream and ointment are unlikely to cause any side effects if you follow the instructions.

Some people get a burning or stinging feeling for a few minutes when they put fluticasone on their skin. This stops happening after you've been using it for a few days.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects are rare. They happen to less than 1 in 10,000 people who use fluticasone skin cream or ointment. You're more likely to have a serious side effect if you use fluticasone on a large area of skin for a long time.

Using fluticasone for a long time can make your skin thinner or cause stretch marks. Stretch marks are likely to be permanent, but they usually fade over time.

Fluticasone cream contains cetostearyl alcohol, which may cause a skin reaction in the area you are treating.

Stop using fluticasone and tell a doctor immediately if:

  • your skin becomes redder or swollen, or yellow fluid is weeping from your skin – these are signs of a new skin infection or an existing one getting worse
  • you get lighter or darker patches on your skin – these are a sign of changes to the pigment in your skin
  • you are using fluticasone for psoriasis and you get raised bumps filled with pus under your skin
  • you have a very upset stomach or you're being sick (vomiting), very bad dizziness or fainting, muscle weakness, feeling very tired, mood changes, loss of appetite and weight loss – these can be signs of adrenal gland problems
  • you feel confused, sleepy, more thirsty or hungry than usual, pee more often, have hot flushes, start breathing quickly or your breath smells of fruit – these can be signs of high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia)
  • you have any new problems with your eyesight after starting to use fluticasone

Children and teenagers

In very rare cases, using fluticasone for a long time can slow the normal growth of children and teenagers.

Your child's doctor will monitor their height and weight carefully if they need to use this medicine often. This will help them to notice if your child's growth is being affected and they can change the treatment if needed.

Talk to your doctor if you're worried. They will be able to explain the benefits and risks of your child using fluticasone.

Serious allergic reaction

It happens rarely but it is possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to fluticasone.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • you're wheezing
  • you get tightness in your chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.

These are not all the side effects of fluticasone. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.

Information:

You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.

6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

There's not enough research into fluticasone to know if it's safe to use in pregnancy.

If you're pregnant, or trying for a baby, talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of using fluticasone.

Read more about how using corticosteroid cream or ointment, like fluticasone, might affect you and your baby during pregnancy from the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPs) website.

Fluticasone and breastfeeding

Fluticasone cream or ointment is generally OK to use when breastfeeding.

If you're using fluticasone on your breasts, wash off any medicine from your breasts, then wash your hands before feeding your baby.

It's usually better to use cream rather than ointment when breastfeeding, as it's easier to wash off.

Non-urgent advice: Tell your doctor if you're:

  • pregnant
  • trying to get pregnant
  • breastfeeding

7. Cautions with other medicines

It's very unlikely that other medicines will interfere with the way fluticasone creams work.

However, tell a pharmacist or doctor if you're taking:

  • medicines used to treat HIV, such as ritonavir or cobicistat
  • medicines used to treat fungal infections, such as ketoconazole or itraconazole
  • other medicines that contain steroids, such as eczema creams, asthma inhalers, tablets, injections, nasal sprays, and eye or nose drops

Mixing fluticasone with herbal remedies and supplements

There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements while taking or using fluticasone. Ask a pharmacist for advice.

Important

Tell a pharmacist or doctor if you are taking any other medicines, including herbal medicines, vitamins or supplements.

8. Common questions

How does fluticasone work?

Fluticasone is a steroid (also called a corticosteroid). Steroids help to reduce inflammation in the skin (and other parts of your body).

Skin gets inflamed when an allergic reaction or irritation causes chemicals to be released in the skin. These make your blood vessels widen and your irritated skin becomes red, swollen, itchy and painful.

Fluticasone cream or ointment works inside your skin's cells to stop these chemicals being released. This reduces any swelling, redness and itching.

When will my skin get better?

Your skin should start to get better after using fluticasone for a few days.

You may need to use it for up to 4 weeks. Sometimes your doctor will tell you to keep using it for longer.

How long can I use fluticasone for?

It depends on why you're using it.

For contact dermatitis you'll probably only need to use fluticasone for up to 1 week.

For long-term skin problems, such as eczema and psoriasis, you may need to use the medicine for longer under the supervision of a doctor.

To reduce the risk of side effects, your doctor may recommend that you only use fluticasone for a few weeks at a time. Tell your doctor if your skin gets worse or does not improve within 2 to 4 weeks.

Do not use fluticasone for more than 4 weeks without talking to your doctor. If you need treatment for a long time, they may decide you need to use a milder cream or ointment.

Talk to your doctor before stopping treatment if you've been using fluticasone for a long time. They may tell you to gradually use less of it, and use it less often, before you stop completely. This reduces the chance of your symptoms coming back.

Why should I not use fluticasone on my face?

Do not use fluticasone on your face unless a doctor has told you to.

The skin on your face is delicate, so if fluticasone cream thins the skin or damages it, it's particularly noticeable.

If your doctor tells you that you can use fluticasone on your face, follow their instructions carefully.

Do not put the cream or ointment near your eyes or on your eyelids.

Is it safe to use for a long time?

Using fluticasone for a long time without stopping can mean some of the medicine gets into your bloodstream. If this happens, there's a very small chance it can cause serious side effects, such as adrenal gland problems, high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia), thinning of your skin, or problems with your eyesight.

If you have been using fluticasone for a long time, your doctor may tell you to gradually reduce the amount you use before stopping completely.

Can fluticasone make eczema worse?

Steroids like fluticasone reduce inflammation in your skin to help manage your symptoms. They do not cure eczema.

If you feel your symptoms are getting worse after using fluticasone for 1 week, it's important to tell a doctor.

When you stop using fluticasone, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can flare up again.

You can avoid this by gradually reducing the amount you put on, and how often you use it. Do this over 1 to 2 weeks before stopping it completely.

Can I still have vaccinations?

Using fluticasone does not stop you or your child having vaccinations.

But tell the doctor or nurse that you're using fluticasone so they can give the vaccine in an untreated area of skin.

Can I drink alcohol while using it?

Yes, you can drink alcohol while using fluticasone.

Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?

No. This medicine is not affected by what you eat or drink.

Will it affect my fertility?

There's no evidence that fluticasone affects male or female fertility.

However, speak to a pharmacist or your doctor if you are trying to get pregnant.

Will it affect my contraception?

Fluticasone does not interfere with any types of contraception including the combined pill or emergency contraception.

Can I drive or ride a bike?

Fluticasone does not make you sleepy so it's safe to drive or ride a bike when using this medicine.