This Care Guide Covers:

  • A sty is a red lump or pimple on the edge of an eyelid
  • It starts at the bottom of an eyelash

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • 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 gets 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 now
  • Styes have occurred in the past 3 or more times
  • Sty has come to a head (pimple), but has not drained after 3 days
  • Sty lasts for more than 10 days
Parent Care at Home If
  • One sty
Causes & Health Information


  • 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 nose is the most frequent home of Staph. Also, more common when using eye makeup.

Return To School

  • Children with a sty usually do not need to miss any school.

  1. What You Should Know:
    • 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.
    • Most often, it drains and heals in a few more days.
    • Most styes can be treated at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Heat:
    • Put a warm, wet washcloth to the eye. Do this for 10 minutes 3 times a day. Reason: This helps the sty come to a head.
    • Continue the warm wet cloth even after the sty begins to drain. Reason: To help remove the discharge and heal the sty.
    • Caution: Do not rub the eye. Reason: Rubbing 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. Do this by using tweezers. Pull out the eyelash that goes through the pimple. This will start drainage and healing.
    • Another option is to wait for drainage to start on its own. Most often, this occurs in another 1-2 days.
    • Caution: Do not squeeze the red lump. Reason: This can cause an eyelid infection.
  4. Antibiotic Eye Medicine:
    • Most single styes respond to the treatment with heat. They don't need an antibiotic.
    • If there is more than one sty, your child may need an antibiotic. Also, antibiotics may be needed if styes keep coming back. This usually happens to children who rub their eyes often.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Eyelid gets red or swollen
    • Sty comes to a head, but does not drain by 3 days
    • More styes occur
    • Sty is not gone by 10 days

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

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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: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 1/13/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

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