When Your Child Has a Stye

Closeup of eye with finger holding down lower eyelid to show stye.

A stye is a common problem in children. It’s an infection that appears as a red bump or swelling near the rim of the upper or lower eyelid. A stye can irritate the eye and cause redness, but it should not be confused with pink eye, which is also called conjunctivitis. Unlike pink eye, a stye is not contagious. That means it can’t be spread to another person. A stye isn’t a serious problem and can be easily treated.

What causes a stye?

A stye is caused by a clogged oil gland near the rim of the eyelid.

What are the symptoms of a stye?

  • Red bump or swelling near the eyelid

  • Itchiness of the eye and eyelid

  • Feeling that an object is in the eye

How is a stye diagnosed?

A stye is diagnosed by how it looks. To get more information, the healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. The provider will also examine your child. You will be told if any tests are needed. 

How is a stye treated?

  • To help relieve your child’s symptoms, apply a warm compress to the stye 3 to 4 times a day. This can be done with a warm, clean washcloth.

  • Don’t squeeze or touch the stye. If the stye drains on its own, cleanse the eye with a warm, clean washcloth.

  • While most styes don’t need treatment, your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or eye ointment.

  • If your child does not get better within 4 to 6 weeks, he or she may be referred to a healthcare provider who specializes in treating eye problems. This is an ophthalmologist. In rare cases, a stye may need to be drained or removed.

When to call your child’s healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if your child has any of the following:

  • Fever, as directed by your child’s provider or:

    • In an infant under 3 months old, a fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

    • In a child of any age, repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C)

    • A fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old

    • A fever that lasts more than 3 days in a child age 2 years or older

  • A seizure caused by the fever

  • Red or warm skin around the affected eye

  • Drainage from the stye

  • Trouble seeing from the affected eye

  • A stye that won’t go away even with treatment

  • Styes that keep coming back