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Does this describe your child's symptoms?

  • A sty is a red lump or pimple on the edge of an eyelid


  • A tender, red lump on the eyelid at the base of an eyelash
  • A small pimple on the eyelid at the base of an eyelash
  • A sty is tender to touch
  • A sty causes mild swelling of the eyelid
  • A sty can cause a watery eye


  • An infection of the hair follicle of an eyelash. The most common cause is the Staph bacteria.
  • Risk factors: Rubbing the eyes (especially after picking the nose - the most frequent home of Staph). Also, more common with eye makeup.

Return To School

  • Children with a sty usually do not need to miss any school or child care.
When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You think your child looks or acts very sick
  • Eyelid is very red or very swollen
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Sty becomes larger than 1/4 inch (6 mm)
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • 2 or more styes are present
  • Styes have occurred 3 or more times
  • Sty has come to a head (pimple visible), but has not drained after 3 days
  • Sty present for more than 10 days
Parent Care at Home If
  • One sty and you don't think your child needs to be seen

  1. Reassurance:
    • A sty is a minor infection of an eyelash.
    • A sty usually comes to a head and forms a pimple in 3 to 5 days.
    • In a few more days, it usually drains and heals.
    • Most styes can be treated at home.
  2. Local Heat:
    • Apply a warm, wet washcloth to the eye for 10 minutes 4 times a day to help the sty come to a head.
    • Continue the warm wet compresses several times a day even after the sty begins to drain. (Reason: remove the discharge)
    • Caution: Do not rub the eye (Reason: can cause more styes)
  3. Open the Pimple:
    • Age limit: Your child is over 5 years old and cooperative
    • When the center of the sty becomes yellow, you can open it by pulling out the eyelash that goes through the pimple. Use a tweezers. This will initiate drainage and healing.
    • Another option is to wait for spontaneous drainage (usually another 1-2 days).
    • Caution: Do not squeeze the red lump. (Reason: can cause an eyelid infection)
  4. Antibiotic Eye Medicine:
    • Most single styes respond to the treatment with local heat and don't need an antibiotic.
    • Indications for antibiotic: multiple styes, recurrent styes or children with an eye rubbing habit.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Eyelid becomes red or swollen
    • The sty comes to a head, but has not drained by 3 days
    • More styes occur
    • Sty is not resolved by 10 days

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 8/1/2011

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D