Pubic lice, also known as crabs, are tiny insects that live in body hair and are spread by close physical contact. They are just like head lice, only they are in pubic and body hair, not head hair
They are spread through close body contact with someone who has them.
The lice crawl from hair to hair but cannot fly or jump. They need human blood to survive, so generally only leave the body to move from one person to another. They do not live on other animals such as cats or dogs.
Pubic lice are most commonly passed on during sexual contact. Condoms will not prevent them from being passed to another person. It is not a reflection of an individual’s personal hygiene.
It is also possible for pubic lice to be spread through sharing clothes, towels and bedding.
The most common symptom of pubic lice is intense itching. The itching is caused by an allergy to the droppings of the louse. It can take one to three weeks for itching to develop after they infest, and it will usually be worse at night.
Adult pubic lice are tiny – smaller than a match head. They are grey-brown in colour and have six legs. The two pairs of back legs are much larger and look like the pincer claws of a crab (hence the name!). They use these to grasp onto your hair. Pubic lice eggs are tiny, yellow-white ovals, which are stuck firmly to the base of your hairs.
There is no test for lice, but you’ll likely see the lice crawling in your body hair. Your GP or sexual health clinic can also look for visible evidence of the lice.
Pubic lice can be treated at home with insecticidal lotion or cream that you can get over the counter in your local pharmacy. You will usually need to apply the treatment once and repeat again after seven days. Everyone that you have had close body contact with should be treated at the same time. You will also need to wash all your bedding and clothes on a hot wash.