What is Pubic Lice


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What is Pubic Lice?
Pubic lice (Phthirus pubis), are small insects that dwell on humans, more commonly in pubic hair causing Pediculosis pubis. Pubic lice are not limited to the hair around the groin though and can be found living in other hairy areas of the body such as the anus, the back, the chest, the underarms and on facial hair (beards, moustaches, eyelashes and eyebrows). They are not found on the head. Pubic lice are often also referred to as 'crabs', due to the crab-like claws/legs that they have to hold onto hairs with. Pubic lice are around 1-2mm in size and range in colour from a light translucent grey to dark reddish brown. They are blood sucking parasites that feed off small amounts of blood by piercing the skin.

How can you get Pubic Lice?
Pubic lice can be embarrassing to have, as well as itchy and uncomfortable. The good news is that they do not usually cause further illness but they must be taken seriously, treated and prevented where possible. If you are sure you have crabs then it is important to understand how they were contracted and to take the correct preventative steps to not spread them to anyone else. It is also a good idea to get tested at the local clinic for other sexually transmitted infections. The most common way to catch pubic lice is through close body contact, such as sexual intercourse. Other ways could be via kissing an infected person with lice in their beard or moustache (nonsexual contact). However, it is not ruled out that there's a possibility pubic lice could be caught from bedding, towels or clothing - but as they cannot live for very long without a host to feed on, it is very unlikely.

Symptoms of Pubic Lice
Not everyone experience symptoms of pubic lice, so they can go undetected (and are therefore spread unknowingly). Female adult lice lay eggs which later hatch into nymphs, which grow to become adults. When hatching takes place, empty shells (known as nits) are left stuck to the pubic hair. These are initially white but turn to a yellow colour and can be mistaken for dry flaky skin or dandruff. However, water and normal everyday shampoo will not get rid of the pubic lice so this is a sign that you need a lice treatment. Some people will experience itching around the infected area but this may not occur until a week or so after contracting pubic lice. The itchiness can become amplified at night time when the parasites are feeding but it is important to not scratch the skin/surrounding pubic hair, as it could become further infected and inflamed (this may also prevent you using some of the best treatments until the skin heals). Red or brown spots/marks (and rashes) may appear around the infected area and can even be raised from the skin (inflamed). Blue spots may also appear on the skin, from lice bites, and you may find small dark black/brown marks in your underwear due to  droppings or blood spots.

How do you get Pubic Lice

pubic lice picture

What causes pubic lice?
Condoms should be used if you are having sex a lot with different partners and regular check ups at GUM clinics are also advised. Condoms can help prevent catching many sexually transmitted infections but they won't stop you getting pubic lice. Reducing the amount of casual sex partners you have may help reduce the risk of catching pubic lice and although people of all ages can be infected with pubic lice, it's more common in young sexually active adults. Pubic lice only infect humans and do not infest other animals.



Pubic Lice Treatment
There are different treatments for pubic lice and the severity of the infestation will determine which product is best to use. If you visit your local GP or GUM (Genito-urinary Medicine) clinic, the professionals there will be able to advise which treatment is best. This is recommended as you could also be treated or checked for any other STIs at the same time. Treatment for pubic lice usually comes in the form of an insecticide, designed specifically for the human body. There are different types of insecticides (water based and alcohol based) with the water based insecticides being preferred for pregnant or breast-feeding women and people of a young age. If the water based insecticides are not successful then alcohol based products may be the chosen route (however these can cause further skin irritation on some people). Not all pubic lice treatments are suitable for all people, so it is worth seeking professional advice. Whichever treatment is decided, the idea is to kill the lice and this can be done with lotions, creams, shampoos and combs. Malathion (Derbac-M, Quellada M and Prioderm), Permethrin (Lyclear) and Phenothrin (Full Marks) are all common ingredients of products designed to kill pubic lice. Each pubic lice product will come with directions for use and it is important to follow these directions carefully to give you the best chance of ridding the lice - all are easy to apply.

Some general tips to remember may be,

  • Seek medical advice first if you are pregnant, breast feeding or under 18
  • After a hot shower or bath, wait for your skin to cool and dry before application
  • Be careful with broken or infected skin
  • You do not need to shave the affected area before application
  • Treat all  pubic, body and all facial hair (being careful not to get any product in your eyes)
  • Pay attention to all infected pubic areas and those nearby (around the genitals and anus)
  • Leave the cream on for the recommended time on the product instructions
  • After washing the cream or lotion off use a nit comb to remove any dead lice or nits
  • Re-apply the product a week later to kill any newly hatched eggs since the last application
  • Remember to repeat the treatments if the lice do not clear - but only the recommended amount of times before seeking further advice
  • Consult a doctor if symptoms are persistent after a second application
  • Thoroughly cleaning all bedding and clothing on a high temperature as an additional preventive measure may help
  • Do not use head lice products on pubic lice as they are not designed for use in the genital area
  • Avoid close body contact with others until you are certain the lice are killed and the second application has been completed
  • Contact all the people you have had close body contact with in past couple of months and suggest they are examined (as they may be infected but without any symptoms)
  • Itching may not halt immediately, so don't be surprised if the itching takes a few days to cease
  • You don't have to have sex to get pubic lice, genital contact could be all that's needed
  • Those who have more than one frequent sexual partner are more at risk of pubic lice

Pubic lice can be treated over the counter so a trip to your local pharmacy should help you seek the correct treatment. Otherwise, the GUM clinic are very discreet and do not have to inform your local GP if you don't want them to, plus they can give you all the up to date information on pubic lice and help with the recovery. This confidential treatment means you don't even have to give your real name if you don't wish to - the most important thing is to get the crabs cleared and that they aren't spread to others.

Thousands of people search to find out about different types of louse and how to get rid of them. Fortunately there are so many products available on line, you should be able to find what you want without too much of a problem. We hope that you have found this article a useful guide and that any questions you may have had have been answered. You will find that this website is a great resource, whether you are looking to learn more, purchase related products or just seek some quiet information. Men, women and children are all affected by these parasites and we hope you have located the treatment you may need, be it a comb, lotion, cream, medication or shampoo. Treatments and remedies should be sought after quickly and if you have crabs you should seek medical advice so they cannot be spread or infect others.

Pubic Lice

How can you get Pubic Lice

  • Combs, Liquids, Lotions, Insecticides and Medication for control
  • Facts and Information about a body louse, head louse, hair louse and pubic louse
  • How do you get pubic lice? Learn more here
  • Need crabs treatment? Find out what to do here at Getting Rid of Lice
  • Symptoms of the crabs louse? Search our information on remedies!
  • Life Cycle of crabs and information on possible prevention methods, treatment and avoidance
  • What is a louse body? Take a look at our pictures

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