A stye is a red lump on your child's eyelid. It's caused by a blockage of an oil gland in the eyelid.

A child with a stye in one eye


Key points about styes

  • a stye is a red tender lump on your child's eyelid
  • it develops when a gland in your child's eyelid becomes blocked
  • styes are common and usually clear up in 6 weeks to 6 months
  • you can use simple treatment at home for most styes

What causes a stye?

A stye develops when the small oil glands in your child's eyelid becomes blocked. This causes swelling and redness on the eyelid.

What are the symptoms of a stye?

  • red, sore, swollen eyelid
  • tender swellings in the eyelid
  • watery eye
  • a lump on your child's eyelid

What is the treatment for a stye?

The aim of treatment is to unblock the oil glands and keep your child's eyelids clean. This should help the swelling and redness to go away.

Treatment includes warm compresses, eyelid massage and cleaning. You can do this at home. 

Styes usually heal in 6 weeks to 6 months. 

Warm compresses

Place a hot flannel, a heated wheat bag or a heated eye mask (usually available at pharmacies) on your child's closed eyelids for 10 minutes. The temperature should be reasonably warm, about 42 degrees. Test the temperature on the skin on the insude of your wrist. Make sure it's not too hot. 

Eyelid massage

After heating, massage your child's eyelids. Use the tip or side of your finger. Firmly push the skin of your child's eyelids close to their eyelashes. It shouldn't be painful. Massaging helps unblock the oil glands by melting the oil and squeezing it out. Do this twice a day until the stye goes away.

Where to massage the eyelid

Eyelid cleaning

Make a solution using 1 part baby shampoo and 10 parts water. Dip a clean cotton bud in a small amount of the solution. Use it to clean away any crusts on the eyelashes. Rub along the eyelids. Use a clean cotton bud for each eyelid. Repeat this process twice a day. Pour a fresh amount of solution into a small container each time. 

If you follow these steps, most styes will get better.

Other self-care tips

  • don't try and burst the stye yourself
  • you can use lubricating eye drops from the pharmacy to make your child's eyes more comfortable - this will not get rid of  the stye
  • avoid contact lenses until the stye has gone

When should I see a health professional?

See your child's doctor if you have followed the steps for treatment and:

  • the stye doesn't go away or is causing distress
  • your child's eyes become increasingly red or painful
  • your child's sight becomes blurred

Adapted from Stye | Health Navigator


Photo of a stye in a child's eye is from

Diagram showing eyelid massage by Kenny Wu, Optometrist, Eye Institute, Auckland.


This page last reviewed 25 July 2022.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it