An inflammation of a hair follicle of an eyelash can cause a stye, a pus-filled swelling on the eyelid, usually on the lower one, which generally comes to a head and bursts within four or five days. It may be a sign that a child is tired or run down and is more likely to occur if a child rubs or touches the eyes frequently and pulls eyelashes. It can be associated with a more general irritation of the eyelids or with blepharitis. A child with a stye needs to be discouraged from touching the affected eye, as this can cause spreading of the infection to the other eye.

Treatment of styes

• Eyebright (Euphrasia off.) has a long tradition of use for eye disorders in Europe and although modern herbalists may be more moderate in their claims about the power of eyebright than the ancients, it is still an excellent remedy for a variety of eye problems. Its astringent properties are good for relieving inflammatory eye infections such as styes, conjunctivitis, blepharitis, watery eye conditions and catarrh. It is particularly good for sore, itching eyes accompanied by a discharge, often seen in hay fever or measles, and for catarrhal conditions affecting the nose, throat, sinuses, ears, upper chest and causing sinusitis, headaches and coughs. It will also help those with oversensitive eyes, which tend to run in cold and wind, or are irritated by smoky or stuffy atmospheres. It can be used either locally in lotions for the eyes or taken internally: 30 drops of the tincture in a glassful of rosewater makes an excellent eyewash. A cohort study of the efficacy of Euphrasia eye drops in conjunctivitis recently concluded that these drops could be used safely and effectively for various conjunctival conditions.

• If the stye is painful, a warm compress can be applied for a few minutes every two or three hours to soothe the discomfort and to help bring the stye to a head. An infusion or decoction of either burdock, chamomile, elderflowers, eyebright, golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis), marigold, marshmallow (Althea off.) or plantain can be used. Alternatively use 5 drops of tincture in 1 a cup of equal parts of distilled water and rosewater or witch hazel.

• Infusions of either burdock, echinacea, eye-bright and red clover (Trifolium pratense), sweetened with a little liquorice can be given internally, three times daily to help detoxify the system and increase resistance to infection.

Garlic and vitamin C supplements are also recommended.

Ayurvedic approach

• According to Ayurveda, constipation is one of the common causes of anjananamika or styes. Therefore, ½ tsp of Triphala powder in a little warm water at bedtime is given at the onset.

A teaspoon of Triphala powder in a cup of water, left overnight, and squeezed and filtered the next morning, makes an excellent wash for the eyes.

• An infusion of tulsi, holy basil leaves, can also be used to wash the eyes.

• Sour foods and drinks are best avoided and bitter foods recommended.

• To reduce Pitta, exposure to the sun or extreme winds and rain is not advised until the eye has recovered.