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Crabs (Pubic Lice)

What is it?
Crabs are grey or brownish-red insects closely related to head lice. They live in the pubic hair or other body hair and lay their eggs at the base of the hair. On average, it takes eight or nine days for the eggs to hatch, but sometimes it can take up to 17 days. Crabs can live up to 35 days and survive away from the human body for 24 to 48 hours. You can get them through close contact with an infected person or by sleeping in an infected person's bed, using their towels or wearing their clothes.

What are the symptoms?
Itching, particularly at night, is the most common symptom. Sometimes people don't feel itchy but they do find the lice in their pubic hair or tiny dried blood spots on their underwear. Bluish spots on the pubic area or thighs may be bites.

How is it diagnosed?
It is diagnosed when you or your doctor finds the lice or their eggs in your pubic hair.

Are there any complications?
Sometimes scratching can lead to a skin infection.

How is it treated?
You can buy treatments for crabs without a prescription, usually in the form of shampoos. Nix Cream Rinse is the recommended treatment. Other products include R&C Shampoo, and Kwellada lotion or shampoo. Kwellada products contain lindane and should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women. Be careful to follow the instructions that come with the treatment.

You also have to kill the crabs in clothing, bedding and towels. Dry clean or washing on the hot setting will kill the lice. Freezing the cloth for 24 hours will also kill them. For treatment to be effective, you have to kill all of the lice in your clothes, bedding and furniture.

Should my partner be checked or treated?
Yes, your partner should look for crabs and treat them if necessary.

How can I protect myself from crabs?
Crabs may reoccur if they are not carefully killed in bedding towels and even upholstered furniture. Wash everything at the hottest temperature possible.

 

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Infections

Bacterial Vaginosis

Chlamydia

Crabs (Pubic Lice)

Gonorrhea

Hepatitis

Herpes

HIV/AIDS

Human Papilloma Virus

Molluscum contagiosum

Syphilis

Trichomonas

Yeast infection

  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital