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What causes pubic lice: CDC – Lice – Pubic “Crab” Lice

What Are Pubic Lice (Crabs) & How Do You Get Them?

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?

What are pubic lice?

Pubic lice — also known as crabs — are small parasites that attach to the skin and hair near your genitals. Crabs aren’t dangerous, and they’re usually pretty easy to get rid of.

Pubic lice are super common.  

Millions of people get infected with pubic lice every year. They are tiny insects that look like tiny versions of the crabs you see at the beach. They live on the skin and coarse hairs that are around your genitals, and they feed on your blood. Pubic lice spread really easily during sexual contact.

Public lice symptoms include pretty intense itching. But even though pubic lice can be uncomfortable, they don’t cause any serious health problems. It’s usually easy to get rid of them with over-the-counter medicines.

Getting pubic lice doesn’t mean you’re dirty — it has nothing to do with hygiene or cleanliness. Anybody can get pubic lice if they have close, personal contact with someone who has them. About 3 million people in the U.S. get pubic lice every year.

How do you get pubic lice (crabs)?

Crabs are usually spread through sex, because they like to live in pubic hair. Pubic lice move easily from one person’s hairs to another person’s hairs when their genitals touch or are very close to each other.  

Most people get crabs during sex, but sometimes they’re spread through other kinds of close, personal contact. You can get pubic lice where other types of coarse hair — like eyelashes, eyebrows, chest hair, armpits, beards, and mustaches — touch places on someone’s body where crabs are. Sometimes pubic lice are spread by using an infected person’s clothes, towels, or bed.

Crabs don’t spread through quick, casual touching, like handshakes or hugs. And it’s really, really rare to get crabs from a toilet seat — crabs don’t live very long when they’re away from a human body, and they can’t hang onto smooth surfaces.

Even though crabs are into hair, they usually don’t like to hang out in the hair on top of your head. Pubic lice are different than head lice, and you usually don’t get crabs in the hair on your head. Head lice usually don’t show up in the pubic area, either.

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Pubic Lice Infestation (Crabs): Symptoms, Treatment, Causes

What are pubic lice?

Pubic lice, also known as crabs, are very small insects that infest your genital area. There are three types of lice that infest humans:

  • pediculus humanus capitis: head lice
  • pediculus humanus corporis: body lice
  • phthirus pubis: pubic lice

Lice feed on human blood and cause intense itching in affected areas. Pubic lice usually live on pubic hair and are spread through sexual contact. In rare cases, they can be found in eyelashes, armpit hair, and facial hair. Pubic lice are often smaller than body and head lice.

Pubic lice infestations are more common among people who have sexually transmitted infections.

Pubic lice are typically transmitted through intimate contact, including sexual intercourse. It’s also possible to catch pubic lice by using the blankets, towels, sheets, or clothing of people who have pubic lice.

Adult lice lay their eggs on the hair shaft, near the skin. These eggs are called nits. Seven to 10 days later, the nits hatch into nymphsand start feeding on your blood. The lice can live without their food supply for one to two days.

Contrary to common belief, you’re highly unlikely to get pubic lice from a toilet seat or furniture. Pubic lice usually don’t fall off of their host unless they’re dead. They also can’t jump from one person to another like fleas.

Don’t allow your children to sleep in your bed if you have a pubic lice infestation. Children may get an infestation after sleeping in the same bed as someone who has pubic lice. In children, the lice usually live in their eyelashes or eyebrows. The presence of pubic lice in a child might also indicate sexual abuse.

People with pubic lice often experience itching in their genital region or anus about five days after the initial infestation. At night, the itching will become more intense. Other common symptoms of pubic lice include:

  • low-grade fever
  • irritability
  • lack of energy
  • pale bluish spots near the bites

Excessive itching may cause wounds or an infection in the affected areas. Children with lice infestations on their eyelashes are also at risk of developing conjunctivitis (pink eye).

You can usually diagnose yourself by thoroughly examining your pubic area. You can use a magnifying glass to look for pubic lice if you suspect an infestation but can’t see well enough to be sure.

Lice are usually pale gray, but they can darken in color after drinking your blood. You’re probably infested with lice if you see small, crab-shaped insects moving in your pubic hair.

Lice eggs are another indicator of infestation. The eggs are tiny and white, and are usually found around the roots of pubic hair or other body hair.

Call your doctor if you’re showing signs of a 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.

To prevent a pubic lice infestation, you should avoid sharing clothes, bedding, or towels with anyone who has pubic lice. Sexual contact should also be avoided until treatment is complete and successful.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with pubic lice, you must inform all current and past sexual partners so that they can be treated as well.

symptoms, what they look like, causes of appearance, how they become infected

Who causes the disease?

The pubic louse is a parasitic insect that lives on the human body, feeding on its blood. Such lice can appear not only in the intimate area, but also on other areas of the skin covered with coarse hair. They cause itching, cause discomfort, and they need to get rid of as soon as possible. Below is how to do this, as well as the signs of infection and its prevention.

Signs of pubic lice

The main symptom of phthiriasis (pubic lice infestation) is itching. It may intensify at night. Because of it, scratches and sores form on the skin. It is not always possible to see the insects themselves – they are small in size (no more than 2 mm, and usually much smaller). Lice attach themselves to the hair and look like dark specks at the base of the hair. When infected with pubic pediculosis, black dots and grains may appear on the linen. Parasites can live not only in the genital area, but also on the skin in the armpits, on other areas of the skin covered with coarse hair (including eyelashes and eyebrows). Pubic lice never live on the scalp, since their limbs are adapted to hold only a triangular section on the hair, while the hair on the head has a round section.

Photo: phanuwatnandee / freepik. com

How do you get pubic lice?

Infection can occur in several ways:

  • during sex and through close bodily contact with a person already suffering from pubic lice;
  • less often, it is possible to become infected through a common bed, linen or towels;
  • the minimum risk of infection exists when visiting public baths, saunas, swimming pools.

People who often change sexual partners are at risk. The probability of infection is the same for men and women. Children can also become infected – through tactile contact, close hugs, sharing towels or bed with a carrier of pubic lice.

Important! Causes and risks of infection are not related to personal hygiene: cleanliness does not affect the risk of getting lice pubis. Condoms and other barrier contraceptives do not protect against these parasites.

Pubic lice cannot jump or fly, so close and long enough contact is needed to infect, long enough for the insect to crawl from one person to another.

Video 1. Briefly about pubic lice. Source: blausen.com

What do pubic lice look like?

Pubic lice are dark red or yellow-grey insects. They have six legs, of which the front pair is oversized. The parasite uses them to cling to the hair. The length of the insect usually does not exceed 2 mm. It looks like a dark grain at the very base of the hair. Pubic lice differ from head lice in body structure (it is round, not oblong), in size (it is smaller).

Figure 1. Differences between pubic lice and head and body lice. Source: rospotrebnadzor.ru

Lice reproduce by laying pale brown nits (eggs). They may look like thickening of the hair at its very base.

Figure 2. Pubic lice on the skin. Source: Springer Science+Business Media


In phthiriasis, parasites live on the hair in the pubic area, perineum, anus, and armpits. Less often, eyebrows, eyelashes, beard and mustache, hairy skin of the back, chest, abdomen in men are affected.

When infected, the following symptoms appear:

  • frequent itching of affected areas, may be worse at night;
  • the appearance of sores, blue or bluish spots of small size in the affected area;
  • inflammation, skin irritation.

The main symptom is itching, but it can take up to several weeks between infection and its appearance, during which the person will be a carrier of parasites. Ulcers, spots appear on the skin later as a reaction to insect bites, to scratching itchy skin. If you suspect pubic pediculosis, you need to contact a dermatovenereologist.

Diagnosis of disease

Examination of the affected area is sufficient for diagnosis. It is not necessary to take tests or conduct special studies. Examination can be done using a magnifying glass or by examining the hair under a microscope (rarely required). The doctor will examine the areas where itching most often occurs, as well as other areas of the skin covered with coarse hair. All patients examine the genital area, anus, armpits, eyebrows, eyelashes. In men, they additionally examine the beard and other areas covered with hair – chest, back, abdomen, legs, arms.

Pubic lice in the armpit. Photo: Chinese medical journal / Open-i (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

A medical examination is necessary to exclude other skin diseases and allergies and prescribe the correct treatment.

The doctor may additionally refer the patient for examination to rule out sexually transmitted diseases. Pubic lice do not carry such diseases, but infection with phthiriasis may indicate an increased risk of other sexually transmitted infections.

How to get rid of parasites: effective remedies

For the treatment of phthiriasis, external, local preparations are used – they are prescribed by a doctor. There are several effective remedies.


May be formulated with mineral oil complex, does not contain insecticides. Comes as a shampoo, spray or lotion. May be used for children over the age of three.


A topical cream based on this substance is used to treat or prevent head lice. Also comes in shampoo form. Preventive action can be maintained for a period of two to six weeks.

Boric acid

Medicinal ointments have been developed on the basis of this active ingredient. According to the instructions, the ointment is applied to the scalp, then washed off. The hair is combed out with a comb. The treatment can be repeated daily. Additionally, boric ointment has an antiseptic effect.

In any case, before using any drug, you should consult your doctor. It is also important to study the instructions so as not to harm self-medication.

Almost all preparations for pubic lice contain permethrin, an insecticidal substance. It destroys pubic lice, nits, paralyzing them and stopping breathing. Permethrin has a characteristic orange-brown color and a specific smell. Use preparations containing this insecticide should be strictly prescribed by a doctor and with caution:

  • the substance may cause allergy, skin redness, increased itching, burning, stinging or stinging;
  • in the treatment of phthiriasis and the application of products containing permethrin on the skin in the genital area, it is necessary to avoid contact with the mucous membranes;
  • insecticides are not used to kill pubic lice on eyebrows, eyelashes;
  • when using insecticidal creams, ointments, shampoos, it is advisable to protect the skin of the hands with disposable gloves or wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after applying the drug;
  • Permethrin-based topical agents are not used to treat head lice in children.

Age restrictions are indicated in the instructions for a particular drug. If a child is infected with phthiriasis, you can use any insecticidal preparations only as directed by a doctor.

To reduce the risk of a local reaction, before using a cream, lotion, shampoo, or other preparation containing permethrin, you can apply a small amount to the skin to see if it causes allergies, itching, burning, or other unpleasant symptoms.

Folk remedies

Folk medicine involves the use of a mixture of vegetable oil with kerosene, essential oils, petroleum jelly, and other means that must be applied to the affected area. Such treatment is ineffective: if at least a few living insects or eggs remain after it, pubic lice will continue to multiply. The use of kerosene and other aggressive agents is dangerous: there is a risk of injuring the skin, provoking an allergy. It is better to use drugs prescribed by a doctor. A single application of insecticidal agents is enough to get rid of phthiriasis.

Important! When infected with pubic lice, you should not try to treat the disease yourself: some drugs can stimulate the reproduction of pubic lice. Therefore, for diagnosis and treatment, you need to contact a dermatovenereologist.

After treating the skin with insecticides, wash clothing, bedding, and any other items that may have pubic lice on them. Washing is carried out at a temperature not lower than +50°C.

Consequences and complications

If pubic lice is not treated, the parasites will continue to multiply. A sick person will infect people in close contact with him. The risks to his health are mainly associated with inflammation, the appearance of ulcers on the skin, the addition of a secondary infection.

After several weeks of treatment, dead nits may be found on the affected area. This does not require re-treatment of the skin or hair with the insecticide.

If a pregnant woman becomes infected with phthiriasis, drugs with a minimum concentration of toxic active substance are chosen during treatment. Pubic pediculosis is not dangerous for newborns, they cannot get it from their mother. The risks of phthiriasis during pregnancy are mainly associated with the addition of a secondary infection if the disease is accompanied by severe itching and the appearance of ulcers, scratching, inflammation on the skin.

Preventive measures

You can reduce your risk of contracting pediculosis pubis by avoiding casual sex. Condoms and other methods of barrier contraception do not protect against phthiriasis. For prevention, it is important to use personal towels, underwear and bedding, and change them regularly. A good preventive measure is epilation or depilation – hair removal in the bikini area, armpits, and other areas. It improves the quality of personal hygiene, reduces the risk of infection with pubic lice, and can be carried out for both women and men.

Image: [email protected] / Depositphotos


Pubic pediculosis is a harmless but unpleasant disease. It is easily treated – usually a single use of insecticidal agents is enough for this. Before starting treatment, you should consult a doctor to rule out other diseases (allergies, inflammation) and choose a safe drug.


  1. NHS. Pubic Lice.
  2. Office of Rospotrebnadzor for the city of Moscow. Prevention of pediculosis. — 2017

symptoms and treatment, prices in St. Petersburg

Pubic pediculosis (or phthiriasis) is a parasitic venereal disease of the skin, sexually transmitted. The causative agent of phthiriasis is the pubic louse, which feeds on human blood. This parasite spreads very quickly from a sick person to a healthy person, crawling up the pubic hair during sex or close bodily contact. Also, infection is possible through bed and underwear, shared towels, in public saunas, baths, etc.

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Phthiriasis: symptoms

The most striking symptom of phthiriasis is itching of the pubic skin at the sites of lice bites. Later, other parts of the body may begin to itch – hips, stomach, beard, mustache. The spread of pubic lice throughout the human body is more active if it has increased hairiness on the body.

In places of lice bites, blue spots can form – places of destruction of hemoglobin under the influence of the saliva of the parasite. Skin itching intensifies at night. The patient combs the affected areas, which leads to the formation of ulcers, abrasions and scratches. This increases the risk of contracting other infections and viruses.

Sometimes, against the background of pubic pediculosis, a person begins an allergic reaction, and therefore a rash can be added to bites and lice – a consequence of an allergy.

Phthiriasis diagnostics

An accurate diagnosis of pubic lice is very easy. In most cases, there are nits or parasites on the patient’s underwear and body, which are visible to the naked eye or through a magnifying glass. Complaints of a patient with phthiriasis are very specific, therefore, the diagnosis of the disease is carried out during an examination by a doctor and does not require additional research.