Vision Quest

What’s this? That angry-looking, painful, sometimes pus-filled red lump near the edge of your child’s eyelid could be a sty caused by an infected eyelash follicle. On the other hand, the lump might be a chalazion, which is usually larger than a sty but usually not painful, and is caused by a clogged oil gland in the eyelid. “Some kids call these ‘eye zits,’” laughs Hawke Yoon, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, “which is a pretty good description.”

What’s the best treatment? Never squeeze or “pop” a chalazion or sty! If you do, the infection could spread to surrounding tissue. Instead, soak a clean washcloth in hot water and apply to your child’s eyelid for 10 minutes, three to five times daily until the lump is gone. This will allow the clogged gland or infected follicle to open and drain. If there’s no improvement after several days, your pediatrician may prescribe antibiotic ointment. Chalazia and sties generally respond very well to treatment with compresses or ointment. In rare cases, a pediatric ophthalmologist may need to drain the lump if healing is too slow or your child’s vision is impeded.