Styes are relatively common, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cause serious problems. Knowing what to do if your child gets a stye is important for helping them avoid those problems and heal quickly.
At ABC Children’s Eye Specialists in Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona, our team helps parents (and kids) care for styes on their own in addition to providing medical treatment when needed. Here’s what to do if your child has a stye.
Why styes happen
Also called a hordeolum, a stye happens in the same way as a pimple: Oils, dead skin cells, dirt, or other debris get trapped in an oil gland or hair follicle. Bacteria feed on the debris, eventually causing inflammation and infection.
Most styes form on the margin of the eyelid — typically the lower lid. Some styes form on the underside of the lid where they can be hard to detect. Like pimples elsewhere on your face, a stye is red, sore, and tender to the touch. It might feel warmer than the surrounding skin. And, like a pimple, it’s filled with pus.
Often, the infection begins with the bacteria that are normally found on your skin. But sometimes, your child can transfer bacteria from their fingers if they rub their eye. If the bacteria lodge inside an oil gland or eyelash follicle, they can also cause an infection.
In addition to pain, swelling, and redness along the lid margin or on the underside of the lid, a stye can cause other symptoms like:
- Eye pain
- Eye scratchiness
- Extra sensitivity to light
- Crusting along the lid margin
If the infection starts to spread, your child might even develop a fever.
Treating a stye
Although styes are common and can cause a fair amount of discomfort, the good news is, they often clear up on their own with a little help from Mom and Dad. The goal of at-home treatment is to help the stye drain — but that doesn’t mean you should try to pop it.
Instead, you can apply a very warm compress to the stye for a few minutes several times a day. In most cases, compresses help reduce swelling and discomfort, along with opening up the pore so the stye can drain.
If you do try to treat the stye at home, be sure to keep a close watch on the stye to see if it gets bigger and to watch to see if the area around it becomes red. That could be a sign that the infection is spreading. If the stye doesn’t go away after a few days, call the office to schedule a visit so we can treat the underlying infection and avoid potential problems.
Medical treatment starts with topical or oral antibiotics to help fight the infection and prevent it from spreading. If the stye still doesn’t heal, we can drain the stye during a simple in-office procedure.
Give your child the gift of healthy vision
Styes typically aren’t serious, but if the infection spreads or doesn’t go away, it can wind up affecting your child’s vision and their overall health, too. If your child has a stye and home care doesn’t help, don’t hesitate — book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at ABC Children’s Eye Specialists today.