Pubic Lice

Often called “crabs”
Common symptoms include intense itching
Treatment is available
Easily spread through close contact

What Are Pubic Lice?

You may have heard of pubic lice, but many people are not sure what they are. Pubic lice are tiny insects that attach themselves to the skin and hair in the pubic area. They are also called “crabs.”

Every year, millions of people get pubic lice.

What Are the Symptoms of Pubic Lice?

People do not usually get any symptoms until having pubic lice for about five days. Some people never get symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they may include

  • intense itching in the genitals or anus
  • mild fever
  • feeling run-down
  • irritability
  • the presence of lice or small egg sacs, which are called nits, in pubic hair

How Can I Know If I Have Pubic Lice?

People often diagnose themselves with pubic lice. You can also see your health care provider. If you look for pubic lice with your naked eye or with a magnifying glass, they look like tiny crabs. They are pale gray but darken in color when swollen with blood. They attach themselves and their eggs to pubic hair, underarm hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows. Their eggs are white and are found in small clumps near the hair roots.

Is There a Treatment for Pubic Lice?

Yes, treatment is available. Some common brands of over-the-counter pubic lice medicine are A-200, RID, and Nix. Follow the directions on the package insert of the medication. You may need to apply the medicine from head-to-toe more than once.

Stronger prescription medicines are also available — ask your health care provider about them.

Shaving, hot baths, or other “home remedies” will not work.

Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants must use products specially designed for them.

Everyone who may have been exposed to pubic lice should be treated at the same time. That way they can avoid becoming infected again.

All bedding, towels, and clothing that may have been exposed should be thoroughly washed or dry cleaned, and your home should be vacuumed.