Which Topical Steroids are Better for Children?

Which Topical Steroids are Better for Children?

Topical steroids are commonly used by people of all ages, including children. Topical steroids are effective for the treatment of atopic dermatitis (eczema), contact dermatitis (including rashes caused by poison oak and ivy), itchy forms of dry skin, and other causes of itching, including insect bites.

However, topical steroids can have long-lasting side effects, particularly with the use of higher potency versions.

Therefore, when topical steroids are used on children, low potency versions should be used whenever possible in order to minimize side effects.

Only certain topical steroids are actually approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the use in children. All of these, with the exception of hydrocortisone, are available only by prescription. These include, listed in order of increasing level of potency (weakest to strongest):

  • Over-the-Counter Cortizone/Cortaid (hydrocortisone) 0.5% and 1% cream and ointment, approved for children as young as 2 years of age.
  • Derma-Smoothe (fluocinolone) 0.01% oil, approved for children as young as 3 months of age.
  • Desonate/Verdeso (desonide) 0.05% gel/foam, approved for children as young as 3 months of age.
  • Dermatop (prednicarbate) 0.1% cream, approved for children as young as 1 year of age.
  • Cutivate (fluticasone propionate) 0.05% cream, approved for children as young as 3 months of age.
  • Elocon (mometasone) 0.1% cream and ointment, approved for children as young as 2 years of age.

While many other topical steroids are frequently and safely prescribed for young children, such as triamcinolone, it must be realized that these topical steroids have less safety data when used in children, and therefore are considered "off FDA indication" use.

Learn more about allergy symptoms in children.

Sources:

Boguniewicz M, Leung DYM. Atopic Dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006; 117(2):S475-80.

Cortizone-10 Drug Facts. Website accessed May 28, 2011.

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