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Baby Symptoms & Conditions

Sty In Babies

This eye condition is annoying, but it’s actually no big deal. Here’s the scoop on how to know if that puffiness on baby’s eyelid is a sty and how to help clear it up.

What is a sty like for a baby?

A sty looks “like a red bubble on the eyelid,” says Alanna Levine, MD, a pediatrician at Orangetown Pediatric Associates in Tappan, New York. It may or may not be painful for baby. It’s the result of an infection of an oil gland or eyelash hair follicle.

What are the symptoms of stys in babies?

Think of a sty as a pimple on the eyelid. A sty is typically rounded and raised, and can point inward or outward.

Are there any tests for stys in babies?

No. Stys are diagnosed by their distinctive appearance.

How common are stys in babies?

Stys aren’t super-common in young kids, but they’re not unheard of either. 

How did my baby get a sty?

Stys are usually caused by a kind of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. Rubbing the eyes with dirty hands may cause a sty.

What’s the best way to treat stys in babies?

“The standard of care is to apply warm compresses,” Levine says. “Usually, the sty will go away on its own.” So put a warm, moist washcloth on the affected eye for five to 10 minutes about four times a day. The sty will usually drain and heal after a few days of treatment.

Rarely, a physician may order antibiotic ointment to be applied to the sty. More often than not, though, simple warm, wet compresses will do the trick.

What can I do to prevent my baby from getting a sty?

Good hygiene can prevent most stys. Always wash your hands before touching baby’s eyes and teach him to do the same. (Although that’s easier said than done with an infant or toddler!)

What do other moms do when their babies have stys?

“Put a warm, wet cloth on it as long as she will allow it, and don't pick at it! My husband gets them from time to time. They do go away on their own, but the wet, warm washcloth will make things go much faster. If it doesn't go away within a few days...the doctor needs to see her.”

“If it’s just a sty, then a warm compress can help, but it could take a day or so to go down. I think it’s fine for him to go to day care unless he’s really uncomfortable because of it. If it could be pinkeye, definitely don’t send him to day care.”

Are there any other resources for stys in babies?

St. Louis Children’s Hospital

American Academy of Pediatrics’

The Bump expert: Alanna Levine, MD, pediatrician at Orangetown Pediatric Associates in Tappan, New York

By Elena Donovan Mauer