Children's Hospital Colorado


Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • A red lump or pimple on the edge of an eyelid
  • It starts at the bottom of an eyelash

Symptoms of a Sty

  • A tender, red lump on the eyelid at the base of an eyelash
  • Turns into a small pimple on the eyelid
  • A sty is tender to touch
  • A sty causes mild swelling of the eyelid
  • A sty can cause a watery eye


  • A bacterial infection of the hair follicle of an eyelash.
  • The most common germ that causes this is Staph.
  • Risk factors. Rubbing the eyes (especially after picking the nose.) The nose is the most frequent home of Staph. Also, more common when using eye makeup.

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Eyelid is very red or very swollen
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Sty gets larger than ¼ inch (6 mm)
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • 2 or more styes are present now
  • Styes have occurred in the past 3 or more times
  • Sty has come to a head (pimple), but has not drained after 3 days
  • Sty lasts for more than 10 days
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • One sty

Care Advice for a Sty

  1. What You Should Know About a Sty:
    • A sty is a minor infection of an eyelash.
    • A sty usually comes to a head and forms a pimple in 3 to 5 days.
    • Most often, it drains and heals in a few more days.
    • Most styes can be treated at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Apply Heat to Bring to a Head:
    • Put a warm, wet washcloth to the eye. Do this for 10 minutes 3 times a day. Reason: This helps the sty come to a head.
    • Continue the warm wet cloth even after the sty begins to drain. Reason: To help remove the discharge and heal the sty.
    • Caution: Do not rub the eye. Reason: Rubbing can cause more styes.
  3. Open the Pimple:
    • Age limit: Your child is over 5 years old and cooperative.
    • When the center of the sty becomes yellow, you can open it. Do this by using tweezers. Pull out the eyelash that goes through the pimple. This will start drainage and healing.
    • Another option is to wait for drainage to start on its own. Most often, this occurs in another 1-2 days.
    • Caution: Do not squeeze the red lump. Reason: This can cause an eyelid infection.
  4. Antibiotic Eye Medicine:
    • Most single styes respond to the treatment with heat. They don't need prescription antibiotic eyedrops.
    • If there is more than one sty, your child may need antibiotic eyedrops. Also, antibiotics may be needed if styes keep coming back. This usually happens to children who rub their eyes often.
  5. Contact Lenses:
    • Children who wear contact lenses need to switch to glasses until the sty heals.
    • Reason: To prevent damage to the cornea.
    • Disinfect the contacts before wearing them again.
    • Discard them if they are disposable.
  6. What to Expect:
    • A sty usually comes to a head and forms a pimple in 3 to 5 days.
    • Most often, it drains and heals in a few more days.
  7. Return To School:
    • Children with a sty usually do not need to miss any school.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Eyelid gets red or swollen
    • Sty comes to a head, but does not drain by 3 days
    • More styes occur
    • Sty is not gone by 10 days
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse


The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

The search for nearby emergency and urgent care facilities is based upon Google search parameters. You will get results based on how facilities manage their website information.

By using this website, you accept the information provided herein "AS IS." Neither publishers nor the providers of the information contained herein will have any liability to you arising out of your use of the information contained herein or make any expressed or implied warranty regarding the accuracy, content, completeness, reliability, or efficacy of the information contained within this website.

Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

Related departments