One time in high school, I had a stye.

My contacts had been bothering me all day, so at some point in the late afternoon I went up to my room to take them out and switch to glasses. (Side note: I went to boarding school. Without that piece of knowledge this story wouldn’t make sense!) As I pulled open my eyelid in order to take the lens out, I noticed this red, blobular thing on the inside bottom of my left eyelid.  I ran downstairs to the sweet lady that worked in our dorm office and said, “I have a monster thing in my eye!!” She calmed me down and told me it was probably a stye. My only experience with styes was a teacher of mine who had one, and I just remembered it looking really lumpy and uncomfortable, so knowing it was a stye didn’t really keep me from freaking out. I was sure it was going to make me look deformed.

I was taken to the eye doctor by one of the RAs (on the short bus, no less) and was prescribed some antibiotic drops to use, but there was also talk of having to “cut it out” if it didn’t heal on its own. Now, I HATE needles, so those words breathed utter terror into my heart, especially since I was away from home and didn’t have my parents there. I could just imagine being able to see a giant needle coming toward my eye.

Thankfully, the stye never got much worse, and the eye drops eventually helped. It was on the inside, so unless I showed it to you (which, in true adolescent grotesque fashion, I did often) you wouldn’t even know it was there. I just had to wear my glasses for awhile instead of my contacts. No big deal. But since then, every time my eye feels itchy or looks the slightest bit puffy, I act IMMEDIATELY as if I might be developing another stye, even though I haven’t had a single one since then. And what I’ve found to be the best home remedy for an inflamed eyelid is a simple hot washcloth.

I think the eye doctor told me this, but I was so focused on the potentiality of giant needles that I can’t be sure it came from him. It might have simply come from Google. But either way, wetting a clean washcloth with water as hot as you can stand and placing it on your closed eye is a tried and true palliative for a stye, and, as I’ve found, also a preventative measure. I’ve never understood exactly why, but I just know that it works. It also makes itchy, inflamed eyes feel a million times better. It does for the glands in your eyelids what a cold compress does for the skin underneath your eyes, which is to leave them feeling stimulated and refreshed.

According to Wikipedia, that bastion of knowledge, “application of a warm washcloth to the eyelids for one to two minutes may be beneficial in decreasing the occurrence of styes by liquefying the contents of the oil glands of the eyelid and thereby preventing blockage.” (Side note: ew.) I don’t usually time it; I just leave the washcloth on until it’s no longer hot. Often I refold the washcloth and apply it again, so that a former inner layer that is still warm is then pressed against my eye. Other ways to prevent styes include simple things such as washing your hands regularly and not sharing cosmetics or tools that are used near the eye. It’s probably also a good idea to wash makeup brushes and applicators frequently and discard mascara that is past a certain age. I don’t pay too much attention to those last two things. But in preventing eye monsters, I swear by my good old hot washcloth.

If you feel the need to view moderately gory pictures of people’s inflamed eyelids, I’ll leave you to Google that on your own. They’re out there and readily available, trust me.

What are some simply home remedies that you swear by? Have you ever had a minor malady that you found inordinately bothersome?

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman