Hydrocortisone vs Antihistamines

Which is better, hydrocortisone or antihistamines?


Different medications can be used to treat the same condition. For individuals who are not medical professionals, finding the right medication, can often be confusing and challenging. Hydrocortisone and antihistamines are great examples of common medications with a variety of uses for different conditions. Let’s break down these two medications and help you get a better understanding of their uses. 



Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid or steroid, which belongs to a group of drugs called glucocorticoids. It has strong anti-inflammatory effects and can be used for conditions affecting the immune system. This can include conditions such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's), asthma, bronchitis, and some skin rashes like eczema and hives. Most corticosteroids will need a prescription from a doctor, but some topical formulations, like hydrocortisone, can be purchased over-the-counter.


Antihistamines are medications that work by blocking the effects of histamines, chemicals responsible for allergic symptoms. These symptoms include congestion, runny nose, sneezing, itchy throat, hives, skin rashes and itchy or watery eyes. Antihistamines can also be used to provide relief for other conditions such as motion sickness, insomnia and anxiety. It is important to note some antihistamines can cause drowsiness and should not be taken before driving or operating heavy machinery. If you need to stay alert after taking medication, make sure to let the doctor know as they can prescribe you a non-drowsy antihistamine. 



Corticosteroids and antihistamines encompass a wide range of medications.  Examples include the following:


  1. Hydrocortisone
  2. Prednisolone
  3. Triamcinolone
  4. Desonide
  5. Dexamethasone 


  1. Loratadine
  2. Fexofenadine
  3. Cetirizine
  4. Chlorpheniramine


What are the differences between the two?

  • Corticosteroids have more anti-inflammatory effects than antihistamines, and antihistamines and corticosteroids have different side effects.
  • Antihistamines can cause dry mouth, drowsiness, decreased production of tears, problems with urination, changes in vision, constipation and agitation.
  • Corticosteroids can cause fluid retention, hypertension, headaches, muscle weakness, growth of facial hair, thinning of the skin, suppresion of the immune system, and much more.



Eczema is a common condition in which corticosteroids and antihistamines are used. Eczema, medically known as atopic dermatitis, usually causes dry, itchy and cracked/sore skin. Eczema is a chronic long-term condition which can affect develop both in adulthood and childhood, sometimes before the age of 1.  There is no known cause, but it can run in families, and can often develop alongside asthma and hay fever. 

Eczema has a common presentation pattern. Eczema can present on any part of the body, but is most common on the hands, insides of the elbows, back of the knees, and the face and scalp in children. Eczema can be manageable at most times, but people can suffer flare-up periods where their symptoms become more exaggerated. Some individuals might have triggers that can cause eczema flare-ups such as soaps, detergents, stress and weather. 


Hydrocortisone and eczema

Hydrocortisone is used to reduce inflammation which occurs eczema. It reduces redness by constricting blood vessels at the surface of the skin.  


Antihistamines and eczema

Some people may struggle with severe itchiness duting an eczema flare.  Antihistamines can be prescribed to help control itching.  They will not help get an eczema flare-up under control but will help soothe symptoms.

Medzino offers a wide range of eczema and allergy relief medications.  To get a prescription, simply fill out an online consultation form and one of our doctors will review it and make sure the medication is suitable for your symptoms. Our pharmacy will then dispatch the medication once they get approval, and send it straight to your door in plain discrete packaging. 



  1. NHS Choices. Antihistamines. [Online] NHS. Available from:
  2. NHS Choices. Steroids. [Online] NHS. Available from:
  3. NHS Choices. Overview - Atopic eczema. [Online] NHS. Available from:
  4. Mayo Clinic. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) - Symptoms and causes. [Online] Mayo Clinic. Available from:

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