Should Your Child See a Doctor?




  • 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 a.m. and 4 p.m.) 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


Home Care Advice for a Sty



  • 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.


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)


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)


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.


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.



  1. Carter SR. Eyelid disorders: Diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 1998;57:2695-2702.



This information is not intended to 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. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.

Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.