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Pubic Lice

Quick Fact: Pubic lice can live not only in pubic hair, but in eyelashes, beards, armpits, or other areas with coarse hair. Like head lice, they can be found in different forms: the nit (egg), the nymph (young), and the adults.

What are pubic lice?

Pubic lice- also known as crabs, are small parasites that often can be seen with the naked eye ( if you look closely). They attach to the skin and hair in the pubic area, or anywhere a person has coarse hair. Pubic lice aren’t dangerous, and they’re usually pretty easy to get rid of. Pubic lice are NOT the same thing as head lice.

How do I know if I have pubic lice?

The most common symptom is intense itching in the genital area and visible nits/lice around hairs. 

How can I get it?

  • Pubic lice are most commonly spread through sexual contact. Sexual penetration doesn’t NOT need to occur, as it can spread when an infected area with coarse hair comes into close contact with another pubic/course hair area. 
  • Pubic lice may be spread through contact with towels, bedding, or shared clothing in an infested household.
  • Pubic lice cannot be spread through smooth surfaces like toilet seats, as they cannot survive without the warmth of the human body for very long. They cannot “jump” from person to person.

How can I get treated?

You should make an appointment with your provider to get the correct diagnosis and treatment. Your provider may prescribe a prescription, however, most pubic lice treatments are sold over the counter and are easy to use and come in gels, shampoos, liquids, and foam. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to a provider before using any treatment.

Simply bathing and shaving will NOT eliminate pubic lice. 

To ensure that you don’t spread any remaining lice, you can machine-wash and machine-dry your clothing, bedding, and towels. If you do not have a washing machine, use boiling water to wash items, hang-dry, and store them in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks.

All partners and people with whom the infected person has shared towels, bedding, or clothing should be made aware in case they develop symptoms.

If you have had pubic lice, you should also get tested for other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STDs).

What happens if I don’t get treated?

Untreated pubic lice can lead to a large infestation and can result in infected wounds from constant scratching, including bacterial/viral STDs.

Bacterial and viral STDs have their own risks and treatments, see other definitions on this page.

Get Help

For general resources about relationships, sex, wellness and more, please do a search on the Get Answers page.

Are you in immediate danger?

Call 911 or your local police. If not in an immediate threat, please view resources on the Get Care page.