What Are Pubic Lice or Crabs?

Public lice, or crabs, is the common name for Pediculosis. Pediculosis is a tiny crab-like parasite that is usually found in the pubic hair of infected men and women, and occasionally in the hair of the chest, armpits, eyelashes and eyebrows.

Usually the parasites are spread through personal contact, although in a few cases they have been picked up through contact with infected bedding or clothing.

What Are the Symptoms of Pubic Lice or Crabs?

The main symptom is severe itching in the genital or other affected area. Scratching can transfer the lice to uninfected parts of the body.

How Is Pubic Lice Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is easy because the lice are visible to the naked eye. They are the size of the head of a pin, oval and grayish, but appear reddish-brown when full of blood from their host. The nits, or tiny white eggs, are also visible clinging to the base of the pubic hair.

How Is Pubic Lice Treated?

Lotions and shampoos that kill pubic lice are available both over the counter and by prescription. Pregnant women should not use the over the counter products and should call their physician for advice.

None of the drugs should be used in or around the eyes. An ophthalmic petroleum jelly should be used for lice in the eyebrows.

All persons who also may be infected due to intimate contact should be treated.

All clothing and bedding should be dry-cleaned or washed in very hot water (125 degrees F), dried at a high setting and ironed to rid them of any lice or nits. Pubic lice die within 24 hours of being separated from the body while the eggs may live up to six days.