- Question: [Thursday, 24th Iyar 5781]
My daughter has a sty pimple by the side of her eye which is very much irritating her. May she place a bag of tea on her eyes for the sake of healing it on Shabbos. The pimple is causing her eyelid to close up and it is difficult for her to see.
If she is below the age of nine then this may be done. If she is above age 9 then she should not do so unless she is in so much pain that she is bedridden or feels weak in her entire body, or the infection has begun to spread into the actual eye. Even in the above cases of allowance, this may only done if the intent is to relieve the pain from the eye or reduce the infection, and not in order to help release blood and puss from the sty.
Explanation: In general, the rule is that it is forbidden to give medical treatment on Shabbos to a child above age 9 unless he is bedridden or weak in his entire body, even if the treatment does not involve any independent prohibition. Particularly, the Talmud and sages explicitly state regulations regarding eye treatment on Shabbos, prohibiting the placing of ointment onto it, and the same would apply regarding a teabag. The only time that is permitted to treat an eye on Shabbos is if either a) there is danger of life or limb involved [various forms of eye infections], or the pain is so great that one is bedridden or feels weak in his entire body as a result, or b) it is not apparent to the onlooker that one is treating the eye and merely appears like he’s washing it, or c) the eye does not have any real ailment, such as one who cannot open his eye due to dry puss and therefore is allowed to wash it even with ointment in order to open it. Likewise, it is permitted to place a vessel over his eye in order to cool it down. Likewise, one who is suffering from eye inflammation a place a ring around his eye in order to prevent it from spreading being that this does not actually heal the eye or perhaps because it is not apparent to others that one does so for healing. From all the above it is understood that it is forbidden to place a teabag on the eye for the sake of healing a sty if it does not fall under the exemptions of a). Furthermore, placing it on a sty in order so it release blood and puss can fall under the biblical Mifarek prohibition which prohibits placing ointment on a wound in order to release blood and pus.
Sources: See Admur 328:9; 328:25-27, 32-33, 328:51, 54; Piskeiy Teshuvos 328:22