Topical steroids

Topical steroids

Topical steroids (i.e. those applied directly on the skin) are used to relieve the inflammation associated with atopic eczema.1 They are classified according to their potency - from mild to very potent. Current guidelines recommend that the potency of topical steroids should be tailored to the severity of eczema. Mild potency topical steroids should be used on the face and neck, except for severe flares, when moderate potency topical steroids may be used for a few days to gain control of symptoms. Moderate or potent topical steroids may be used for up to 2 weeks for flares at sensitive sites, e.g. armpits and groin.1,4 

The majority of people with atopic eczema or their parents/carers have concerns regarding the potential side effects of topical steroids, how they work and how they should be used. This might stop you from using them, or waiting until symptoms become severe before starting treatment. Your doctor or practice nurse can guide you about the area to treat, the amount of cream to apply and when to stop treatment.8

The fingertip unit (FTU) measure of topical steroid application helps to ensure effective amounts are applied. One adult fingertip is roughly equal to the amount of cream or ointment expelled from a tube with a 5mm diameter nozzle, applied from the tip of the index finger to the first crease in the finger.9 Recommended guides for the number of FTUs, according to age and body area can be found in the information leaflets contained in the packaging of these treatments.

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UK/GEN/16/0051 Date of preparation: October 2016