Pubic Lice

What is it?

Pubic lice or “crabs” are tiny insects that are usually found around the genitals in pubic hair. They can also live in other coarse thick hair on your body. Having public lice has nothing to do with your hygiene or how clean you are. While public lice can be itchy and irritating, they aren’t dangerous and can be easy to get rid of.

How can you get it?

  • You can get them through vaginal or anal sex with a partner who has pubic lice. The infection is transmitted when your vagina or anus comes into contact with the skin or your partner’s vagina or anus.
  • You can also get pubic lice by sharing fabric items with someone who has them. These can include clothing, towels, and bed sheets.

How do I know if I have them?

Common symptoms of pubic lice include:

  • Itching on or around your genitals
  • Grey insects the size of pencil dots may be seen
  • Small whitish eggs may be seen in pubic hair

How are they treated?

Pubic lice is treated with medicated creams, lotions or shampoos. Since they live on fabric as well as on the body, it’s important to treat your clothes, bedding, and towels by washing them in hot water, freezing them for 2 weeks, or storing them in an airtight bag for one week.

How can I prevent pubic lice?

  • Barriers such as condoms and dental dams don’t do a great job at preventing the transmission of it, since they can live on skin that is not covered by a condom or dam. Because of this, it’s helpful to talk to your partner about potential pubic lice symptoms before engaging in sexual activity.
  • If someone you know has pubic lice, avoid sharing towels, underwear, sheets, and bathing suits with them until their treatment is complete
  • If you have had sex in the last month with someone who has it, seek treatment to ensure that you do not also have them

How am I tested?

  • You can usually tell whether or not you have it by the itching you might feel, and when you find insects in your pubic hair. If you are not sure, a healthcare provider can confirm the diagnosis for you.

Top of page