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How to Apply Corticosteroid Cream

atiqahzaki
March 27, 2022
41 visits

Corticosteroid creams are a common treatment for many skin conditions, including eczema. They are a medicated cream containing steroid drugs, and thus it is important to achieve a certain dose on the skin for it to be effective.

However, given the short consultation times available to both General Practitioners and Dermatologists, there usually isn’t enough time to fully explain how much cream should be applied according to the body part affected. In addition, if the patient is a child, the amount changes according to the age.

 In this article, we will outline a guide on how to apply corticosteroid creams.

Fingertip units (FTU)

The standard measure for steroid cream is the finger tip unit (FTU). This is defined as the amount of cream squeezed out along an adult’s fingertip, going from the tip of the finger to the first crease. This is equivalent to 0.5g of topical steroid. If you look at the palm of your hand with your fingertips together, a FTU can treat twice the area of the palm of your hand.

Area

FTU needed to treat

Scalp

3

Face and neck

2.5

Front and back of one hand (inc fingers)

1

Entire arm with hand

4

Front of chest and abdomen

7

Back and buttocks

7

Entire leg with foot

8

If the patient is a child, the FTU is still measured on an adult fingertip. Over 10 years old, adult measurements can be used. Using the palm of your hand to estimate the area affected is the best method, but here are some rough measurements for children:

Age

3-12 months

1-2 years

3-5 years

6-10 years

Entire face and neck

1

1.5

1.5

2

Entire arm and hand

1

1.5

2

2.5

Entire leg and foot

1.5

2

3

4.5

Entire front of chest and abdomen

1

2

3

3.5

Entire back inc buttocks

1.5

3

3.5

5

Topical steroid and emollient

For many conditions, the topical corticosteroid is prescribed in addition to the usual emollient creams. You should continue to use your moisturiser as usual. However, when using the topical steroid as well, make sure to leave 20-30 minutes between applications. This means you can either put on the emollient first and wait 20-30 minutes before applying the steroid, or the other way round. This is to prevent dilution of the corticosteroid cream with the emollient.

Takeaway message

The commonest problem with topical steroid creams is under-use – you need to apply more than you think! Remember that topical steroid is a medication, and if you don’t use enough, it will not be effective for its purpose. Follow the instructions on FTU to ensure you use enough.

 

Source: 

 

 

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Author

I have had eczema my whole life - atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema. It is frustrating most of the time but I have been able to manage my flare ups thanks to recommendations from my friends with eczema. I'm here to help others like me get better too!

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