Why does my child get styes?

What is a stye?

An internal hordeolum, more commonly known as a stye, is a minor inflammation found around the eye area. A stye appears as a red and swollen bump, it can appear inside or outside the upper or lower edge of the eyelid. You can either have an internal stye (less common and more severe) or an external stye. Sometimes the stye will feel as if there is something in your eye, it can cause irritation and noticeable redness.

Your child getting a stye is generally not a cause for concern and it typically won't develop into anything more serious. We look into how to get rid of a stye and the most common causes.

Eye stye causes

Styes are caused by a bacterial infection which occurs when the oil glands near the outer and inner rims of the eyelid become clogged.

Who can get a stye?

Children are more likely to obtain a stye than adults, however, they can affect people of all ages.

Are eye styes contagious?

A stye should not be confused with conjunctivitis (pink eye), which is highly contagious and can have a similar appearance. Unlike pink eye, a stye is rarely contagious. If someone came into contact with the bacteria of a stye and then touched their eyes, it is possible for them to then develop a style, although this doesn't happen very often.

This is why it’s important not to touch the stye if you have one, to limit the chance of transmitting the bacteria elsewhere.

How long can a stye last?

Styes usually only affect one eye, but in some cases they can affect both. If left alone, a style will disappear by itself within a week.

What are the symptoms of a stye?

Your child may experience stye symptoms such as:

-The feeling that there is something in their eye

-A red bump on their eye

-Swelling near the eyelid

How is a stye diagnosed?

A simple visual examination should identify a stye based on the way it looks and perhaps feels. Your doctor will instantly be able to diagnose a stye just from checking your eyelid, a red, painful lump will be visible around the eyelid area.

Things to be aware of

If it's you that has the stye, be sure not to use any eye makeup whilst you have the infection. Throw away any eye makeup you used whilst you had the stye, or you'll risk developing another one.

Remember to tell your child not to squeeze their stye. Squeezing the lump will release pus and potentially spread the infection.

How to get rid of a stye

The stye will go away on its own after a week or so, but there are some things you can do to make it go even more quickly.

Wash your hands, then, apply very warm water to a clean towel and apply it to your child’s eye for about 10 minutes. Use this warm compress 3 to 4 times a day.

Further treatment for a stye

Most styes don’t require any formal treatment, but your eye doctor may prescribe antibiotic ointment or antibiotic eye drops. In some rare cases, styes will be drained or removed if they are seen to be causing further issues.

You can find more information of eye infections as well as eye care more generally at our Eye Care Hub. You can also read about how to protect children's eyes in our blog post.


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