Crabs or pubic lice

Crabs or pubic lice are parasites that are very itchy and live in the pubic hair. You can get them by having close physical contact with someone who has them or by coming into contact with infested bedding, towels, or clothing. The telltale signs are intense itchiness and sometimes the appearance of small black spots or tiny bloodstains in your underwear. They are cured with creams and/or shampoos that are sold in pharmacies as well as careful combing to get rid of the eggs that stick to the base of the hair. All clothing, towels, and bedding need to be washed in hot water or stored in an air tight bag for two weeks and your mattress needs to be vacuumed to make sure that all the lice and eggs are gone.


Inflammation, itchiness, redness, and irritation in and around the pubic area. Small blue spots may be visible where lice have bitten the skin and small black spots or tiny bloodstains may be visible in underwear, clothing, or bedding.

Transmission and Prevention

Transmission of crabs or pubic lice occurs during close physical contact. This can be sexual or non-sexual contact. Transmission can also occur through coming into contact with bedding, towels, or clothing that have been infested. To prevent transmission, where possible, avoid sexual contact or sharing bedding and clothing with anyone with public lice until they are treated.


Crabs or public lice are treated using creams or shampoos purchased at the pharmacy. Clothing, bedding, and towels need to be washed in hot water. Items that cannot be washed should be vacuumed and/or stored in an air tight bag for up to two weeks. Antihistamines can be used to treat itchiness. 


Testing for crabs or public lice occurs through a visual examination of your pubic area by a health care professional.

Updated on 2019-04-09
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