Authored by Revere Health

Eye Conditions in Children: Styes

January 21, 2019 | Family Medicine

Many people get painful, small, red bumps or lumps near their eye that look like a pimple. These are called styes. Styes develop when a sweat or oil gland becomes infected. Typically, styes are filled with pus, but they are not contagious and often go away on their own.

Symptoms of Styes

If your child has a sty, you may notice a red, tender bump on his or her eyelid. There may also be redness, tearing, tenderness around the eyes or swelling. Most styes don’t impact the ability to see, but they are uncomfortable when they first break out.

Sometimes the small oil glands in the eyelid become blocked, which can cause inflammation in the eye. This condition, called a chalazion, isn’t as painful as a sty. You can treat this condition with warm compresses.

What Causes Styes?

Styes in children are often caused by touching the eyes with unwashed hands. Older children and teens who wear contact lenses can get styes if they don’t disinfect the lenses or wash their hands before inserting them. Leaving eye makeup on overnight or using old or expired cosmetics can also cause styes.

Prevention and Treatment for Styes

Styes usually go away on their own. A warm washcloth applied to the eyelid can alleviate the discomfort associated with a sty. Gently massaging the eyelid can also help. You should try to avoid allowing your child to rub the eye. Although a sty is an infection, antibiotics are typically not used as part of treatment. In some cases, a doctor may need to drain the sty.

Prevent eye issues and infections before they start:

  • Teach your children to wash their hands regularly throughout the day or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Children should also keep hands away from their eyes.
  • Advise your teen against sharing cosmetics and wearing makeup overnight. If your teen gets a lot of recurrent styes, you may need to get rid of the eye makeup and start fresh. It’s possible that your teen is re-infecting the eye by using the same makeup.
  • Talk to your child about contact lens safety. Before inserting contact lenses, clean your hands thoroughly. Disinfect contact lenses according to the directions before wearing them.
  • Use warm compresses on your child’s eye regularly to help keep the glands from clogging up and becoming infected.

Blepharitis and rosacea can put your child at a higher risk of styes. Make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for caring for your child’s eyes if he or she has either of these conditions.

When to See a Doctor

Children are subject to many eye issues. If self-care measures don’t work or if the stye doesn’t improve in two days, you should talk to your doctor. If the redness and swelling involve other parts of the face, you should contact your doctor right away. Once someone has a stye, their risk of getting another one increases.

Dr. Oneida practices the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, adult medicine and some orthopedics. She also performs colposcopy, cryotherapy and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries done, her practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, although she enjoys all aspects of family medicine. 



“Sties.” American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Sty.” Mayo Clinic.



The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.