The first sign that I am getting a cold is a scratchy throat. 

It’s kind of like the beginning of an unpleasant roller coaster ride that builds up to the big drop, and it’s the same thing for a very annoying ailment – the eye stye. It’s been many years since I had one of these obnoxious ailments, but I woke up a few days ago with that roller coaster ticket in my hand, knowing I was in for a ride I didn’t want or need at this time.

With Christmas around the corner and me with my red bumpy eye, trying to get things organized for the holiday approaching, this was not on my list of things to deal with. 

A stye (also called a sty or hordeolum) is an infection in the eyelid that causes a tender, red bump near the edge of the lid. It’s itchy and causes some extra tears and is just plain uncomfortable, not to mention unattractive to boot. It starts small with the first signs of pain, redness, swelling and tenderness. Although they do not impair vision, they feel like there is something a little scratchy inside your eye, which in my case makes me want to keep that eye closed. Now that impairs my vision. 

Styes are contagious and although most people have the stye-causing bacteria in their bodies, you don’t want to take any risks of passing it on. They usually just heal on their own with about a seven- to 10-day window of time, but keeping your hands washed and avoiding using the same towel or soap or making any contact with someone else’s eyes after you have touched your eye will prevent any issues with loved ones. Don’t share pillowcases or anything else that may have a direct contact with the infected eye.

The first thing you should do if you develop a stye is clean your eyelids. You can use diluted, tear-free baby shampoo on a cotton ball, washcloth or clean makeup remover pad. Then rinse your eyelids with warm water and gently pat them dry. Even though the area can be itchy, avoid scratching, and always be sure to wash your hands before and after touching the stye. 

Ladies, it’s wise to stop wearing eye makeup temporarily when you have this, because covering it up can delay the healing process. Mine is on the bottom lid, so I may be pretty safe with a touch of eye makeup on the top only, but for the last few days, I have stayed inside, showing only Grandpa my au natural look.

Make sure to discard old makeup or applicators that could be contaminated. This gives us a chance to go shopping and buy some new mascara! Change out your contacts if you wear them for vision, and wear glasses until the stye is completely gone. 

Treatment is pretty simple to help it run its course. Keep the area clean and apply warm compresses for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a day. A friend at Walgreens suggested tea bags – specifically chamomile tea –as her go-to remedy. She said to heat it up like a regular cup of tea, then let the bag cool off just enough to not burn your face and place it on the affected area. I tried it and it felt better, plus I got a nice cup of tea out of the deal. Make sure the tea bag is warm but not too hot. 

A basic clean washcloth dipped in warm water will also do the trick and is easy to prepare. Wring the cloth so it’s not dripping, then place it over your closed eyes. The goal of this therapy is to bring the stye to a head, like you see on a pimple. But whatever you do, don’t get anxious and try to pop a stye! The warmth from the compress often will allow it to open, drain and heal on its own, without causing trauma to the eyelid or possibly spreading an infection by squeezing it.

If your stye worsens, affects your vision or doesn’t go away within a week or so, contact your eye doctor for an in-office evaluation and treatment. In some cases, rare that this is, stubborn styes may require surgical treatment by your doctor, followed by application of a prescription medicine. 

Try to avoid future styes by washing your face thoroughly before bed, remove any make up every night, keep your hands washed and avoid rubbing your eyes if possible. Like any bacteria, keeping things as germ free as possible helps. As for me, I am off to make a cup of tea for my taste buds and my eyelid.

Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with senior care and advocacy groups. Email her at