Crabs in the vagina

Crabs (Pubic Lice)

What Is It?

Pubic Lice (Crabs) are small insects, similar to head lice, with crab like claws, which allow them to hold on tight to pubic hair. Although crabs are particularly fond of pubic hair, they can also live in armpits and even eyebrows and eyelashes and other forms of facial hair. They are big enough to see, although because they live in pubic hair they often go unnoticed.

Crabs cannot jump or fly.

Due to the range of possible routes of transmission it is important to remember that the appearance of crabs in a partner does not necessarily mean that they have been having sex with someone else.

It’s also worth remembering that crabs will get around however clean you keep yourself and your environment: they are not associated with poor hygiene.


Itching which is continual and gets worse. Sometimes you may notice black spots in your underwear (crab poo). On occasion you may see some lice.


Crabs are most commonly transmitted through sex; any form of body contact is an opportunity for them, such as cuddling.

However they can also be transmitted by sharing towels, bedding, (such as sleeping bags) or clothing as they can live outside of the body for up to 24 hours and can crawl.


There is really no way of avoiding getting crabs if you are unlucky enough to encounter them. Crabs are like head lice, they go where they want to go.

Something you can do to help reduce the risk of contracting pubic lice is look at the person’s genitals. If you see lice then you can wait until they have been treated before you do anything sexual with the person.


If you contract crabs you should avoid sex until they have been cleared.

Shaving your pubic hair, whilst it might make you feel better, does not get rid of the crabs but does remove their eggs. The crabs will cling on to you and crawl to other body hair. If you do decide to shave, do it a long while after you have applied the lotion.

It is a good idea to wash your towels, clothes and bedding in a hot wash as soon as you begin your own treatment in order to avoid recurrence. Try not to borrow other people’s clothes until you are sure the crabs have gone.

Remember – Regular screening at your local STI clinic is recommended to maintain your sexual health.


Crabs are quite easy to get rid of by using lotions, these are available over the counter at a chemist.

You may want to go to your local STI clinic to be advised of the best treatment but you can also simply ask a pharmacist.

Take care to follow the instructions properly; don’t be tempted to use too much as this may cause an allergy.

You may need to put the lotion on more than once. Always read the instructions before doing so.

Ever since I started writing this blog’s monthly STD Awareness column, I’ve kept my eye out for news related to sexually transmitted diseases. And, while some might find my enthusiasm for STD-related items to be slightly odd, I have been intrigued by what has been splashed across headlines so far this year.

First, in January, the claim surfaced that pubic lice (colloquially known as crabs) are being driven to extinction as their natural habitat is felled by razors and waxes. Then, just last month, a little-known STD called molluscum contagiosum got its 15 minutes when it was associated with the increased popularity of hairless pubic regions.

Some say hair removal is causing a decline of pubic lice; others say it increases virus risk. So what’s the deal?

These headlines might raise some questions: Does waxing or shaving my pubic area decrease my risk of crabs, but increase my risk of molluscum contagiosum? Should I shave or not? The answers to these questions aren’t quite as simple as the headlines make them out to be. Let’s take them one by one.

Does Waxing Prevent Pubic Lice Infestations?

The claim: As reported in the media, pubic lice are disappearing, and the Brazilian wax is the culprit. Articles cite statistics that pubic-hair removal is more popular among young people, and then jump to the conclusion that this trendy hairlessness is spurring a decrease in pubic-lice prevalence.

What the science says: The problem with this claim is that it isn’t backed by solid scientific data — it’s supported by anecdotes from doctors who have noticed a decline in pubic lice among their patients. As the saying goes, though, the plural of anecdote is not data: Without well-designed population studies spanning many years, we can’t actually know if there are fewer pubic lice today than there were before our groins were subjected en masse to depilation techniques. Furthermore, as that other saying goes, correlation does not equal causation: Even if there were a correlation between the Brazilian’s popularity and a decline in public lice, we would need more specialized data to determine if pubic-hair removal actually caused the lowly louse’s depopulation.

One study, which appeared in a reputable medical journal and is often trotted out as evidence that hair removal is driving the pubic louse into extinction, was actually just a letter to the editor. The authors noted a reduction in public-lice infestations among patients at their clinic in Leeds, England, which correlated with the Brazilian’s rise in popularity in the United Kingdom. However, they didn’t collect any data about their patients’ hair-removal practices — they merely assume that waxing rates are higher because everyone says they’re higher. Not too scientific!

It would be interesting to know if pubic-lice infestations have been decreasing. However, pubic lice isn’t a reportable disease — while they are unpleasant, infestations don’t constitute the kind of public-health concern that demands detailed data collection. Major health organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Heath Organization, don’t collect information on incidence, so we are hearing anecdotes from doctors, not hard data. Additionally, because pubic lice can be identified by a savvy layperson (perhaps with the aid of a magnifying glass) and eliminated with nonprescription medications, infestations could easily fly under the radar.

However, can shaving or waxing one’s pubic hair treat an existing pubic-lice infestation? It might seem plausible, but the CDC, Planned Parenthood, and other health authorities don’t recommend it. Pubic lice (and their eggs) are treated with a topical medication, and it might be necessary to apply it from neck to toe. Although pubic lice are specialized to survive in the pubic region, they can live elsewhere on the body.

Take-home message: The idea that pubic-hair removal is driving the extinction of crabs is, for now, simply a hypothesis. Although it seems plausible, without more rigorous study we can’t know whether or not this species is in decline, and if that decline is due to increasingly bare nether regions.

Does Shaving Increase Risk for Molluscum Contagiosum?

The claim: The recent surge in body-hair removal has opened up new territory for the sexually transmitted virus molluscum contagiosum (MCV), which causes wartlike growths. The trauma caused by waxing and shaving, even if only on a microscopic level, can give virus particles more entryways into the skin than would be provided by an unshaven, intact epidermis. Furthermore, shaving might make an existing MCV infection worse, as razors can drag virus particles over the skin, depositing them in new locations.

What the science says: These headlines derived from another letter to the editor printed in the same journal that ran the letter about pubic lice. The authors’ data set consisted of only 30 adults diagnosed with MCV at a single dermatology clinic in France. Of these 30 subjects, 93 percent shaved, clipped, or waxed their pubic hair. The researchers did not compare this group to a control group of people without MCV, so we have no way of knowing if these results are statistically significant. Nevertheless, the authors speculate that hair removal, by causing “micro-traumatisms” (small tears in the skin), could increase risk for MCV and “perhaps” genital warts. They call for detailed, controlled studies.

An intact epidermis is our front-line defense against infectious disease, and wounds — even microscopic tears — can make us more vulnerable to pathogens, including viruses. And sexually transmitted viruses like MCV, herpes simplex virus, and human papillomavirus are spread by skin-to-skin contact. Therefore, it’s plausible that waxing, shaving, plucking, or nicking one’s skin while clipping can increase risk of certain STDs. But a profile of 30 patients, without so much as a control group, is hardly a smoking gun.

Take-home message: The above claims about MCV risk are speculation for now, but there are perfectly plausible reasons to think that small injuries caused by shaving, waxing, plucking, and clipping can increase risk for skin-to-skin transmission of STDs.

To Shave or Not to Shave?

Many of us might feel societal pressure to remove pubic hair. We might think that prospective sexual partners won’t find us attractive unless we remove it. In actuality, preferences among people vary wildly, and many don’t care either way. Or we may absorb messages that tell us pubic hair is “dirty,” which is a myth.

If you do decide to shave, wax, or engage in other hair-removal techniques, it’s important to be informed of the risks. Experts (linking to Fox News? Now I feel dirty) remind us that the tiny traumas caused by most hair-removal processes can, in theory, open doors for sexually transmitted viruses. Additionally, one recent study found an upsurge in emergency-department visits related to pubic-hair-removal mishaps. Injuries, usually lacerations, arose from razors, scissors, and hot wax. Other studies have found that side effects of waxing can include burns, mechanical folliculitis, infectious folliculitis, other infections, and contact dermatitis or vulvitis; and that shaving can cause microscopic skin injuries that allow pathogens to enter the body and be spread via razor.

However, although there’s no shortage of emergency-department horror stories, the percentage of injuries requiring a trip to the hospital is thought to be small. If you want to remove your pubic hair, you can decrease risk by practicing good hygiene; being careful while using sharp instruments; or going to hygienic beauty salons where hands are washed, gloves are worn, and equipment is sterile.

The choice to remove one’s body hair or leave it in place is a deeply personal decision that can be informed by perceived cultural norms, religious tenets, and individual preferences. It’s important not to let societal messages negatively influence your body image, and to make choices that reflect your own preferences — not those of others.

And remember, the best way to avoid STDs is to limit sexual contact; use dental dams and latex condoms; and be regularly screened for STDs, along with your partners. A Planned Parenthood health center can provide STD testing and treatment, as well as condoms, dental dams, and information about safer sex.

Pubic lice and how to get rid of them

Share on PinterestSymptoms of pubic lice include itching, skin lesions and the presence of louse eggs.

Lice, or crabs, can be treated using over-the-counter (OTC) preparations. Insecticidal creams, lotions, and shampoos are available without prescription at pharmacies. The pharmacist will suggest a suitable medication. During pregnancy, it is important to see a doctor first.

Most treatments are applied once, and then again 7 days later, if lice are observed.

Anybody who has lice should avoid close physical contact with other people until the lice are gone. Anyone who has been in close contact with the person should receive treatment. This usually means sexual partners.

Some lice have developed a resistance to some medications. If a medication does not work, first check that you have applied it correctly, then speak to a pharmacist or doctor about an alternative treatment.

Before using a treatment, check with a pharmacist or doctor that you know how to use it, and follow their instructions carefully.

If OTC medications do not kill the lice, a doctor may prescribe a stronger lotion or shampoo.

  • Ivermectin lotion is approved for management of pubic lice. Oral ivermectin has been successfully used to treat pubic lice, but this has not been approved by the FDA.
  • Malathion (Ovide) aqueous lotion is suitable for anybody aged over 6 months. Malathion is flammable, so it must keep away from cigarettes, hair dryers, and other heat sources. However, it has not been approved as a treatment for pubic lice in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Instructions for malathion lotion or ivermectin cream, in most cases, are:

  • Apply the lotion to the whole body, including the scalp, face, neck and ears, as well as the affected areas only.
  • Keep the lotion away from the eyes. If some does get in the eyes, rinse thoroughly with water.
  • One total application will generally require about 100ml of lotion or 30 grams (g) to 60 g of cream.
  • Ivermectin lotion: Leave on for 10 minutes
  • Malathion lotion: Leave on for 12 hours or overnight.
  • Wash the medication off with warm water, gently and thoroughly.
  • Comb hair with a fine tooth comb to remove lice eggs.
  • Repeat the process 7 days later.
  • Do not use the medication more often than indicated, and do not repeat the application for more than 3 consecutive weeks.

Lindane shampoo is a prescription drug that can kill lice and eggs, but it is not the first treatment doctors will give, as it can be toxic to the brain. Anyone weighing less than 110 pounds, people who have seizures, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and those with irritated skin or sores should not use it.


If the eyelashes are affected, treat the whole body as well as the lashes. Do not try to pull the eggs or shells out, as there is a risk of eye injury.

The medication for eyelashes is different from the treatments for other parts of the body. Those should not be used on the eyes.

If only a few lice or nits are noted, they can be removed by fingernails or by a fine tooth comb.

An eye ointment is available for those aged under 18 years or during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It has a white or yellow, soft paraffin base, which suffocates the parasite.

  • Apply twice to four times a day to the eyelashes, making sure every part of each eyelash is covered.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before applying, and again after.
  • Each time the ointment is applied, gently wipe away any ointment that is still there from the previous application. Use a tissue, then dispose of it.
  • Apply twice to four times a day for 8 days. Continue treatment until dayt 10 if lice, but not eggs, remain.

Another option is a weaker insecticide shampoo or cream rinse, for example, permethrin 1 percent.

  • Keeping the eyes closed, apply the cream to the base of the eyelashes start, using a cotton bud.
  • Leave for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Wash off with water.
  • If any gets into the eyes, rinse them straight away with water.

In most cases, the first treatment will successfully kill all the lice.

However, the eggs may remain, with the risk of hatching. Re-applying the medication after 7 days ensures that any hatched lice are killed off before they are mature enough to reproduce.

One week after the second treatment, check for lice again. A health provider can help you do this.

Nits, which are eggs or empty egg-shells, may remain for a while even after successful treatment. This does not mean the infestation is still there. However, if there are moving lice or eggs that are not empty, they may be able to hatch. In this case, see a doctor.

Pubic Lice (Crabs)

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What Are Pubic Lice (Crabs)?

Pubic lice are tiny insects (about the size of a pinhead). They usually live in hair in the pubic area (the area near the genitals). They also can live in the eyelashes, eyebrows, beard, armpit, and other body hair.

Pubic lice usually spread through sex. Less often, pubic lice is spread by touching infested clothing, towels, and bedding.

Pubic lice are also called “crabs” because of the tiny claws they use to cling to hair.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Pubic Lice?

Pubic lice usually cause itchiness. This can get worse at night when the lice become active.

Sometimes, lice bites can lead to skin redness and irritation. Lice in the eyelashes or eyebrows can cause eye itchiness and redness.

How Do People Get Pubic Lice?

Most people with pubic lice got them through sex or close sexual contact.

Less often, someone can get pubic lice from sharing clothes, sheets, or towels with someone who has pubic lice.

Lice can’t jump from person to person. It is very unlikely that someone would get pubic lice from a toilet seat. Lice can’t live away from a warm body for long and they do not have feet that could hang on to a toilet seat.

How Are Pubic Lice Diagnosed?

A health care provider usually diagnoses pubic lice by looking at the insect. If needed, the insect can be sent to a lab for identification.

Anyone diagnosed with pubic lice needs to tell:

  • recent sex partners
  • people who have shared bed sheets, clothes, or towels

These people need to get checked for pubic lice and treated, if necessary.

How Are Pubic Lice Treated?

Pubic lice are treated with medicine. The medicine kills the lice. The medicine may be a cream, lotion, or shampoo. Some are available at drugstores without a prescription.

Most treatments for pubic lice need to be used more than once. So it’s very important to follow the directions included with the medicine.

All clothes and bed sheets used by the person with pubic lice must be:

  • washed in hot water and dried in a hot drier or dry cleaned
  • put in a sealed plastic bag for 2 weeks

Can Pubic Lice Be Prevented?

Because pubic lice usually spread during sex, not having sex is the best way to avoid them. Condoms do not protect someone from pubic lice because the lice live outside of the area that condoms cover.

Not sharing clothing, bedding, or towels also can help reduce the risk of getting pubic lice.

What Else Should I Know?

If you are diagnosed with pubic lice, it is important to go to the doctor and get checked for other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

The best way to completely prevent STDs is to not have sex (vaginal, oral, anal). If you do decide to have sex, use a latex condom every time.

Reviewed by: Robyn R. Miller, MD Date reviewed: December 2018

Pubic lice

Treatment for pubic lice is simple and involves using a special cream, lotion or shampoo. The doctor, nurse or pharmacist will advise you on what treatment to use and how to use it.

  • You apply the treatment to the affected area and sometimes the whole body. Lotions tend to be more effective than shampoos.
  • Some treatments can be rinsed off after 10–15 minutes; others are left on for longer.
  • To be effective, treatment needs to be repeated after 3–7 days.
  • You don’t need to shave off pubic or other body hair.
  • You should wash your clothing, bedding and towels in a washing machine on a very hot cycle (60°C or higher) to kill the lice and avoid re-infection.
  • You can also buy treatments for pubic lice from pharmacies – these are useful if you’re sure you have pubic lice and want to self-treat. The pharmacist will be able to advise if you have any questions, or are unsure how to use the treatment.
  • If you decide to treat yourself, you may still want to consider having a sexual health check to make sure you don’t have a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Do tell the doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you are, or think you might be, pregnant or if you’re breastfeeding. This will affect the type of treatment you’re given.
  • There’s currently no evidence that complementary therapies can cure pubic lice.
  • Your sexual partner(s) should be treated at the same time even if they don’t have any signs and symptoms.

Will I have to pay for tests and treatment?

All tests are free through NHS services. Treatment is also free unless you go to your general practice when you may have to pay a prescription charge for the treatment.

You’ll have to pay for treatments that you get directly from the pharmacy.

When will the signs and symptoms go away?

If you use the treatment according to the instructions, it’s rare for it not to work.

Even after successful treatment, itching may continue for a few days.

There may be lice in your body hair after treatment but these can be removed with a special comb that you can get from a pharmacy.

Do I need to have a check-up to see if the pubic lice have gone?

No. If you’ve used the treatment as instructed, washed your clothing, bedding and towels and your sexual partner(s) have also been treated then the treatment should have been successful.

If you still have symptoms or are concerned you still have pubic lice, it would be advisable to have a further check-up about a week after treatment. You may need additional treatment as the lice can develop resistance to treatments.

Can pubic lice go away without treatment?

No. And if you delay seeking treatment you risk passing the condition on to someone else.

Genital Crabs And Pubic Lice

Pubic Lice, often referred to as Crabs or Genital Crabs aren’t really an STD (although contracted during sexual encounters), but actually parasitic insects that under a microscope looks similar to crabs.

They are generally found in the pubic hairs of humans, which is where the name pubic lice came from. They are tiny little insects that Live and feed on human blood. While Genital Crabs generally live in the pubic area of your body, such as around the penis and vagina, they can sometimes be found in other areas such as armpits or beards.

Pubic Lice are contracted through sexual contact including Vaginal intercourse, oral, and even anal. Genital Crabs are also spread through sexual touching. While uncommon Pubic Lice can also be spread from blankets towels and sheets. If you catch Genital crabs you should refrain from any sexual contact and probably shouldn’t share things like towels pubic razors or anything else that might come in contact with the eggs or insects themselves until they have been taken care of.

Crabs or Pubic Lice Pictures.

While it is hard to say how many people have the Pubic Lice or have had Pubic Lice at any particular time frame because it can be treated at home with over the counter Lice creams and Lice medications, the estimations are high. Thousands of people are infected, and infect others with the Pubic lice every day.

Crabs Symptoms Do I Have Crabs?

As with many STDs, sometimes people exhibit no symptoms from genital crabs. Generally the symptoms you will have are simply irritation and itching in the genital area. It’s very hard to see crabs or pubic lice because of their obvious small size. So in order to better understand genital crabs let’s learn a little about them.

There are three stages in a genital crabs life.

  • Nit: This is the egg stage of Pubic Lice
  • Nymph: After the pubic lice hatch, they are called nymphs and look the same as adult crabs, but are smaller in size
  • Adult: About one week after hatching genital crabs reach maturity and become adults

If you think you may have genital crabs symptoms you can check by looking closely at your pubic hair. Genital crabs are viewable with the naked eye, but they are extremely hard to see because of their size and speed. To check to see if you have crabs it’s generally easiest to look for the eggs or Nits. They will be attached to the pubic hair and look like tiny white/yellowish specks. Another symptom of pubic lice is to look for small brown specs from there waste, often easier to spot than the crabs themselves.

Pubic Lice Genital Crabs Diagnosis Treatment and Cures

Since Pubic Lice are parasitic insects and not an infection needing medication you may not have to see a doctor to diagnose and treat them. To tell if you have genital crabs you pretty much will be able to see the telltale signs listed above. The drive you crazy itching will most likely be your first sign of being infested with pubic lice, then when you take a closer look you should be able to see all the symptoms clearly.

Treating genital crabs is quite simple, as long as you follow the steps you should be free and clear of these little parasites for good (or until you encounter them again). First, you will have to kill the pubic lice themselves. In most drug stores around the world you can buy over the counter Lice creams and Lice shampoos made for killing regular lice and pubic lice. Read the directions on the bottle carefully and apply. After application, wash and dry all bedding and clothing that have come in contact with the genital crabs. Unfortunately the lice creams and shampoos don’t effectively kill the Nits or eggs of the lice so you will have to manually remove them from your pubic hairs with either a small comb, your nails, or something similar. After treatment, confirm in 7 to 10 days if the lice infestation is completely gone. If not go through and repeat all the steps again. This should take care of the pubic lice just be careful not to catch them again from the same partner because after treatment is complete you can become infected again just as easily. If over the counter Pubic lice Medication doesn’t work you may have to see a professional and get high grade pubic lice creams and professional advice from your doctor about the best way of alleviating yourself of these annoying parasites.

Space Invaders! How to Defeat the Crabs STD

There are many STDs that can, at least initially, be so subtle that you may not notice them. They usually start out with very mild symptoms and then progress to the point that they simply cannot be ignored. Then, there are STDs like crabs. These little insects can be impossible to miss.

If you’ve noticed some foreign invaders in your “private territories,” you may have genital lice. These nasty bugs attach themselves to rough body hair and feed on the blood of their hosts, causing intense itching. Due to their similar appearance under a microscope, pubic lice are best known as “crabs.”

Creeped out yet? Fear not! With the right information (and a will to win), you can quickly defeat these pesky groin invaders!

Foreign Attackers

Did you know that crabs are technically a sexually transmitted disease? Crabs are attracted to thicker, more rough hair, like the hair found on the genitals, armpits, eyelashes, and face. While it is possible to get crabs in all of these areas, they are most commonly found on pubic hair and spread through sexual contact, hence the “STD” label.

Once pubic lice have found their home, they will begin to feed on your blood, lay eggs, and quickly multiply. If left untreated, there is a strong chance that they will spread to any sexual partners you have.

How to Spot Pubic Lice

Pubic lice and their eggs are visible to the naked eye. If looking for crabs, know that they prefer to hang out around the base of hair follicles, so look there first. Since they are about 2mm in size when fully grown (about half the size of a ladybug), a magnifying glass may be needed to see them. If you feel itchy but do not see any creepy crawlies down there, they may just be well hidden or have moved to another patch of hair, deep within your groin.

Public lice are grayish-brown or copper in appearance, and they get darker if they’ve recently fed on your blood. They blend in with a wide range of skin tones, so if you are experiencing any prolonged itchiness but haven’t seen any, it may be best to treat for them, just to be safe.

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How Common are Pubic Lice?

Crabs are a very common STD. Around 3 million cases of crabs are reported every year in the United States, and most cases are spread through sexual contact and fomites (infected clothes, bedding, ect). Pubic lice are highly contagious, so having crabs doesn’t necessarily mean you are an unclean or dirty person. But proper hygiene does help reduce the chance of acquiring these little buggers.

Symptoms of Crabs

Another reason why crabs are considered an STD is because they have an incubation period. This means that, like most STDs, it takes a while after contracting the STD for the symptoms to take effect. You will typically not see any symptoms until the incubation period is over. In the case of crabs, it takes around a week to notice symptoms. This is about the amount of time it takes the eggs of the crabs transmitted through sex to hatch. Only a few crabs are normally transmitted through sex, so you likely wouldn’t see them or feel their bites. Once their have hatched, a greater number of crabs will be biting. This is when you would start to notice the symptoms.

Itching is the most prominent symptom of crabs. Rarely does anything else result from the infection, and they will not transmit any other diseases. Red and blue spots can develop from crab bites, and some people have also cited rashes, broken skin, and even secondary infections from scratching. Also, be advised that some never notice any symptoms, and others may mistake the symptoms for something else.

Fortunately, crabs are more annoying than dangerous, and they are both easy to treat and do not make you more susceptible to other STDs.

Avoiding Crabs

Pubic lice are very contagious, but fortunately, they can only be transmitted in a few ways. Regular lice (the ones they check for in elementary school) can be found in infected bedding, towels, and dirty clothing. They can even be transferred from person to person through kissing with a lice-infested beard.

Like head lice, pubic lice require a host to feed on or else they quickly die. Because of this, it is difficult for pubic lice to survive on inanimate objects for very long. It is still a possibility, but unlikely. Additionally, their clawed legs are great for holding onto hairs and fibrous materials, but they’re not great for grasping slippery surfaces like toilet seats, making it nearly impossible to acquire crabs in this way.

Outside of abstinence, there is little you can do to protect yourself from crabs. Not even condoms, the ultimate STD avoidance tool, is effective at keeping crabs at bay. Unless they invented a condom for pubic hair. Now there’s an invention!

In the end, you have three options available to reduce the risk of contracting crabs: you can either not have sex entirely, limit partners to those who you know are crab-free (such as monogamous partners), or maintain a diligent grooming regime. And if you think waxing or shaving will protect you from crabs, think again. Removing pubic hair will only work if you remove all other hair with it, and even then it’s considered to be an ineffective way of treating crabs by doctors. The good news is that pubic lice are fairly easy to get rid of, they do not transmit diseases, and they will not make you more susceptible to other STDs.

Debunking the Myths

You can get crabs from a toilet seat:

You cannot get pubic lice from sitting on a toilet seat—or at least it’s incredibly unlikely. Pubic lice are called crabs because of their similar, clawed appearance. These claws are excellent for firmly holding onto hairs but are poor at grasping to slippery surfaces like toilet seats.

You can get pubic lice from animals:

Lice are normally specific to each animal. This means you cannot get any type of lice from your pet. Dog lice can only survive on dog blood, cat lice can only survive on cat blood, and human lice can only survive feasting on human blood.

Crabs are the same as head lice:

Pubic lice are not head lice that simply prefer your underwear over your hat. They are a unique species that are very different from other types of lice.

Shaving off my pubic hair will get rid of crabs:

While shaving pubic hair may be an effective way to get rid of most crabs, they can easily move to other body hair, like your armpit or leg hair.

Pubic lice can jump or fly:

All lice, including crabs, cannot jump or fly. Since they can only crawl, very close contact is necessary to contract crabs.

Eliminating Crabs

Yes, crabs are annoying and bothersome, but at least they are easy to get rid of without prescription medication. This can be done with over the over-the-counter insecticidal creams, lotions, and shampoos. Treatments that have Permethrin (a mild pesticide), like RID, NIX, and A-200, are strong enough to kill pubic lice while not being too harsh. To ensure complete eradication, follow the steps below:

  1. Take a shower and wash yourself thoroughly. Be sure to check all body hair, not just pubic hair, to locate all of the lice.
  2. Follow the instructions of the medication. This normally involves lathering hair in the shampoo or cream and waiting a specific amount of time before removing it.
  3. Most, if not all, lice should be dead and removed at this point. It is still necessary to go over the infected areas with a fine-toothed comb to ensure all lice and eggs are gone. Shaving is not necessary.
  4. Crabs only live for about 48 hours. To ensure crabs won’t be able to lay eggs and continue to develop, wash all clothes and bedding in hot water and dry warm. This will kill any remaining lice.
  5. Repeat the treatment as many times as necessary until no pubic lice or eggs are found.
  6. Your partner should complete this process at the same time to ensure you are not cycling the infection back and forth.

Protecting Yourself and Others

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests getting tested for other STDs after successfully treating pubic lice. Though crabs do not make you more susceptible to contracting other STDs, they are typically accompanied with poor hygiene and/or other STDs. An STD test will always provide peace of mind for both you and your partner.

Some may go long periods of time before noticing they are infected with crabs. This is either because the incubation window is uncharacteristically long for them, or simply because they do not experience symptoms as bad as others. Almost all STDs have a trait of quietly increasing in severity. Crabs may be one of the few STDs that does not get worse with time. Treating crabs and getting tested is also important because it protects those closest to you. To learn more about how to get tested, click here.

Pubic Hair Removal: Shaving

How To (for both males & females)

If you decide you do want to shave your pubic area, here is a comprehensive, how-to guide in 10 easy steps.

  1. Go shopping for the appropriate supplies. You will need:
    • A pair of sharp scissors
    • A new razor (not disposable or dull)
    • Female shaving cream* for your skin type, soft baby oil, and aloe vera cream (preferably with vitamin E added to it).

    Using an electric razor is not recommended. If you can’t find specialized creams for female shaving, use the mildest, non-perfumed male variety.
    For aftercare, use the baby oil to prevent pimples and the aloe vera cream to calm inflamed skin. Do not use male aftershave of any kind.
    Also, tweezers and hair conditioner are optional supplies. You can use the hair conditioner to help soften the hair before shaving if it is especially coarse. The tweezers can be used for stray or hard-to-reach hairs.

  2. Use the scissors to clip as much of the pubic hair as possible. This way the actual shaving will be less painful and more effective.
  3. After cropping as much hair as possible, make sure the pubic area is soft and smooth by soaking in a hot bath or shower for at least three minutes. This will allow you to achieve a closer shave, as well as avoid pimples and irritated skin later.
  4. After the soak, dry off and wait a few minutes. This allows the skin to recuperate a little.
  5. Apply generous amounts of female shaving cream specific to your skin type, or the mildest, non-perfumed male cream. Do not use soap!Let the shaving cream sit for a few minutes.
  6. Use a safety razor to begin shaving – noswitch-blades or disposable razors. If possible, use a razor with moisturizing strips and “micro-fins” or cushions, etc. These help with extra protection from nicks and cuts.
  7. When shaving, pull the skin tight with your free hand and shave without applying pressure. If you have to apply pressure, your razor is too dull.
  8. Move slowly over the skin in the counter-direction of the hair. In the pubic area, this means shaving upward. For people who are prone to ingrown hairs or razor burn, it is recommended you shave in the direction of the hair growth. As you shave, feel free to keep applying shaving cream.
  9. When you’re done shaving, wash the area generously with lots of warm water.
  10. Apply aftercare: Use soft baby oil*** to keep skin smooth and free of pimples, use aloe vera to soothe sensitive skin. Do not use male aftershave; it will sting terribly!

NOTE: If you are planning to have sex and use a condom as protection, you need to protect the condom because the baby oil will deteriorate the latex condom. To protect the condom, wash your pubic area prior to sex.

* – Female shaving cream is recommended for both male and female pubic shaving as all products are more mild and gentle than almost any type of male shaving cream. Also, male shaving creams are often perfumed, which will cause stinging and irritation when applied to the pubic area.

** – Also, it is recommended you don’t shave when you first wake up from sleeping. During sleep, your body fluids accumulate under the skin and make the skin puffier. Wait 20 to 30 minutes until the fluids regress so the skin is tauter and the hair shaft more exposed.

*** – Baby oil is usually fine for most people but some people find the perfume irritating. Ideally, you want a moisturizer that is free from perfume, a cream or a lotion, without anti-aging ingredients or sunscreens or other additives.

You want a really inert moisturizer and one’s labeled for sensitive skin might be best. Suggestions include:

  • Keri Lotion
  • Aveeno Moisturizing products: contains colloidal oatmeal which is soothing
  • Eucerin cream and lotion: not fancy but very inert
  • Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream

Last Reviewed: October 2013

In This Section

  • Pubic Lice (Crabs)
  • What are the symptoms of pubic lice?
  • Do I have pubic lice?
  • How do I treat pubic lice?
  • How can I prevent getting or spreading pubic lice?

The most common symptom of pubic lice is itching near your genitals. You may also see crabs or eggs in your pubic hair.

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Want to get tested for pubic lice?

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Pubic lice symptoms

Usually, the symptoms of pubic lice start about 5 days after you get them. Some people never have symptoms, or they think the symptoms are caused by something else (like a rash).

The most common symptom of pubic lice is intense itching in your pubic area. The itching and irritation is caused by your body’s reaction to the crabs’ bites.

Pubic lice symptoms include:

  • Lots of itching in your genital area.

  • Super small bugs in your pubic hair. You can usually see pubic lice by looking closely, or you may need to use a magnifying glass. Pubic lice are tan or whitish-gray, and they look like tiny crabs. They get darker when they’re full of blood.

  • Crab eggs (called nits) on the bottom part of your pubic hairs. Nits are really small and can be hard to see. They’re oval and yellow, white, or pearly. Nits usually come in clumps.

  • Dark or bluish spots on the skin where pubic lice are living. These spots come from the crabs’ bites.

  • Feeling feverish, run-down, or irritable.

Crabs usually hang out in your pubic hair around your genitals, which is why it’s easy to get them from sex. But crabs can sometimes end up in other kinds of coarse hair, like your eyelashes, eyebrows, chest hair, armpits, beard, or mustache. It’s really, really rare to get pubic lice in the hair on top of your head.

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Pubic Lice Infestation

Treatment for pubic lice consists of decontaminating yourself, your clothes, and your bedding.

Topical, over-the-counter lotions and shampoos can be used to remove pubic lice from your body. These treatments include permethrin lotions: RID, Nix, and A-200. Ask your doctor which products are safe to use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are treating an infant for pubic lice.

You may only need to wash your pubic hair if your lice infestation is mild. Read the instructions to find out exactly how much product you should use and how long you’ll need to leave the product on your skin. Prescription medication might also be necessary if the topical solutions don’t work.

Even after successful treatment, a few stubborn lice eggs might cling to your hairs. Remove any leftover nits with tweezers. Home remedies, such as shaving and hot baths, aren’t effective for treating pubic lice. Lice can easily survive ordinary soap and water.

If several people in your household have contracted pubic lice, treat everybody at the same time. This helps prevent reinfection.

You will also need to decontaminate your home. Vacuum the entire house and clean the bathroom with bleach solution. Wash all towels, bedding, and clothing in hot water, and machine dry them using the highest setting. If you can’t wash or dry clean a certain item of clothing, seal it in an airtight plastic sack for 72 hours.

You might need stronger medicine if the lice survive these efforts. These products include:

  • Malathion (Ovide), a topical lotion that you leave on the affected areas for 8 to 12 hours.
  • Ivermectin (Stromectol), a two-pill dose that you take orally. You might need a follow-up dose 10 days later.
  • Lindane, the strongest and most toxic product among the commonly prescribed pubic lice medications. You only leave it on for four minutes before washing it off. Don’t use this product on infants or on yourself if you’re breastfeeding or pregnant.

For pubic lice in eyelashes, you may be able to pluck the nits and lice with tweezers or a nitcomb. But the best option for an infestation near the eyes is to see a physician. Your doctor might prescribe a special lice medicine suitable for the eye area. Don’t use regular lice shampoos around the eyes.

Itching may persist for a week or two as your body works through its allergic reaction to the bites. Call your doctor if you notice swelling, skin discoloration, or drainage from wounds.

Pubic Lice

How are pubic lice treated?

Public lice can be treated with a lotion or cream put on your skin. These often contain the chemical permethrin or pyrethrin. They are available as over-the-counter treatments or by a prescription. They work well when used correctly.

Follow the directions on the package of the lotion or cream. Make sure to:

  • Use the lotion when your skin is cool and dry.
  • Apply the lotion to the skin and hair in your pubic area and the skin around the anus. Don’t place it inside the vagina or rectum.
  • Do the same with other hairy areas, like your underarms, chest, back, and thighs.
  • Rinse off the treatment according to the package instructions, usually about 10 minutes later.
  • After the treatment, remove any lice that you see. Do this with your fingers, a fine-tooth comb, or with tweezers.
  • Remove nits with a fine-tooth comb.
  • Put on clean clothes and underwear after treatment.

Also make sure to wash any clothing, towels, or bedding used in the 3 days before your treatment. Use hot water and dry the items on the hottest setting. Or you can dry-clean the clothes. For items that can’t be washed or dry-cleaned, place them in a sealed plastic bag for 2 weeks. This will starve any remaining lice.

The treatment should work quickly. If you continue to have itchiness a week after treatment, see your healthcare provider. You may need a repeat treatment at that time.

If you have lice in your eyelashes, your treatment may be different. You’ll likely need to coat your eyelashes with petroleum jelly twice a day for about a week. This will be a prescription type of petroleum jelly that won’t irritate your eyes. This will loosen the lice and nits so you can remove them. In more severe cases, you may need another prescription treatment.

Make sure to tell your sexual partners that you have public lice. They will need to be diagnosed and treated. Tell anyone that you had sex with in the last month. Don’t have any sexual contact until you have been treated and your healthcare provider says you are lice-free.

Everything You Need to Know About Crabs

When it comes to worrisome STDs, pubic lice—or “crabs” as they’re more commonly called—probably aren’t on the top of your list. Who gets crabs in 2017? That’s just for Woodstock hippies and World War II sailors on shore leave. It’s so rare that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “doesn’t conduct routine monitoring or surveillance for pubic lice,” according to Amy Rowland, a CDC spokeswoman.

The Daily Show mocked pubic lice as a “product of a bygone era,” and even serious health researchers have published studies with titles like “Pubic lice: an endangered species?” In that particular study, from 2014, researchers in the UK looked for correlations between pubic lice and a healthy briar patch down below. From their findings, reports of crabs have declined from 1.8 percent to 0.07 percent in a decade, and 94 percent of the patients with pubic lice had untended genital gardens. The “increased incidence of hair removal,” the researchers concluded, could only lead to the eventual “complete eradication” of crabs.

But to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of itchy pubes have been greatly exaggerated. The microscopic crab louse may be in decline, but it’s hardly gone. Some accounts estimate that up to 10 percent of the global population have crabs. Could that mean it won’t be long till crabs become a minor annoyance for sexually active adults yet again?

Pubic lice have been infesting human groins for at least three million years. To help you stay safe, here are answers to your most burning questions.

Are pubic lice different from head lice?
Head lice tend to be bigger, three millimeters in length compared to around one to 1.6 millimeter for pubic lice. And they each keep to their separate corners of the body, although pubic lice “can sometimes be found on coarse hair elsewhere on the body,” says the CDC’s Rowland. “For example, the eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, mustache, chest, and armpits.” But other than their size and human body real estate preferences, there’s not much difference. They’re both wingless parasitic insects that spread through human contact, attach themselves to hair shafts, and feast on human blood.

Why are they called “crabs”? They’re not mini-crustaceans, are they?
Nope. But viewed under a microscope, they vaguely resemble crabs. They’ve got six legs, a round body, and claws that allow them to cling to pubic hair. Honestly, we think they look way more menacing than a lowly crab. If it was up to us, we would’ve named them after the aquatic monster from the 1966 Godzilla movie Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. We’re totally not kidding. Look at this comparison: The top image is a microscope mugshot of the crab louse, the bottom is the Godzilla baddie Ebirah.

How do I know if I’ve got Ebirah, Horror of… I mean crabs? Is it just itching, or is there another symptom I should look for?
Itching is the main symptom. You might catch a glimpse of the little fuckers, if you know what to look for. They’re tan to grayish-white, they cling to the roots of your pubic hairs, and they’re very, very, very small. Unless you’re in the habit of staring at your crotch, you probably wouldn’t notice them. At least not until the itching starts. The itching is one of those, “Whoa, that doesn’t feel right” red flags. It usually begins five days after the crabs have set up shop in your pubes.

The itching is basically skin irritation, caused by those pesky parasites biting into your skin and injecting their saliva, which helps gets the blood flowing in their direction. The itching is worse at night, because that’s when crabs like to burrow. They prefer a host that isn’t moving as much. So while you sleep, the tiny creatures from a Godzilla movie that live in your pubic shrubbery are feeding on your body like vampires, but only in the tiny patch of hairy skin just above the most sensitive organ on your body.

Okay, I hate everything about this. How do I make the crabs go away?
You don’t need a doctor to get rid of them, but you should probably go anyway. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) Pubic lice is easily treated with an over-the-counter lice shampoo. They’re pretty easy to find, anywhere from Amazon to Walmart. Just make sure it contains “1 percent permethrin or a mousse containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide,” Rowland says. “These medications are safe and effective when used exactly according to the instructions in the package or on the label.”

Great. I Amazon Primed that shit before I finished that last paragraph. Now I’m fine, right?
Well, don’t get too relaxed. “Even after treatment, most nits or eggs will remain attached to the hair,” says Fred Wyand, a spokesperson for the American Sexual Health Association. “Nits can be removed with fingernails or a fine-tooth comb. And your clothes and bedding may still be infested with crabs.”

They’re in my bed?
Relax! We’re not saying you need to bug-bomb your house. Just do a load of laundry. You can handle that, right? Rowland also recommends “not sharing clothing, bedding, and towels used by an infested person,” but you probably didn’t need us to tell you that, right? If you think somebody gave you crabs, maybe the last thing you should be saying to them is, “Hey, throw me that wet towel when you’re done with it, kay?”

What about toilet seats? Can I get crabs from a toilet seat?

Are you sure?
We’re very sure. Rowland calls this a “common misconception.” Which is a nice way of saying, “I am so tired of hearing this crap.” “This would be extremely rare because lice cannot live long away from a warm human body and they do not have feet designed to hold onto or walk on smooth surfaces such as toilet seats,” Rowland says, rationally.

Are crabs dangerous? Can it lead to something more serious?
Well, that’s two different questions, isn’t it? In and of itself, crabs are harmless. They’re more a nuisance than a cause for medical alarm. But that said, if you have crabs, it wouldn’t be the worst decision to make an appointment with your family doctor anyway.

“While crabs are not always sexually transmitted, most cases are acquired sexually, and STDs in general tend to be more common in those with pubic lice,” Wyand says. Which is a nice way of saying, if your partner has crabs, it’d be a mistake to think, “Well at least that’s all they have.” Just go get tested, okay?

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