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Pubic Lice (crabs)

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What are crabs?

Crabs are lice that grip onto the hair in the genital area. They are caught by having close body contact with a person who is infected. Because crabs can survive for some time away from the body it is also possible to catch them by sharing towels, clothes or someone’s bed.

Are crabs found in the pubic hair the same as those found in scalp hair?

No, the crabs found in pubic hair differ from those found in the scalp hair although they can be found in beards, armpits on chest hair and eyelashes.

How do you know if you have crabs?

The most common symptom is itching in the pubic hair. A close look can spot the tiny lice clinging to the pubic hair. There may also be nits (eggs) attached to the hair shaft.

How do you test for crabs?

Crabs can be detected by checking the pubic hair in a good light.

Is there any treatment for crabs?

Crabs are rapidly and effectively cured by the appropriate genital lice shampoos and creams. You will also need to change and wash any clothing and linen which has been in direct contact with the affected area. A normal hot wash is sufficient. Itching may persist after treatment.  If it continues for longer then two weeks, it could be due to an allergic reaction to the treatment or persistent infestation. See your doctor or sexual health service if this happens.


What if it is not treated?

If not treated the itch will continue and the crabs may spread to sexual partners or household contacts.

What about partners?

People who have had close body contact with a person who has crabs should be advised, examined and treated if necessary. They can go to their local doctor or sexual health service.

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