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Pubic lice are tiny insects that usually live in your pubic area. Sometimes they're also found on facial hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, armpits, chest hair, and the scalp. They're different than the kind of lice that you can get on your head. Pubic lice are also called "crabs" because they look like tiny crabs.
Millions of people get pubic lice every year. It doesn't mean you're not clean.
Pubic lice are usually spread through sexual contact. But sometimes they can spread through shared clothes, bedding, or towels. It's rare to get pubic lice from a toilet seat. That's because lice can't live more than a day or two away from a human body.
Pubic lice can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but they're not dangerous. And you can learn how to treat them at home.
Pubic lice usually cause itching around the genitals, anus, armpits, eyelashes, or other body parts with hair. But not everyone has itching.
You may be able to see pubic lice crawling on shafts of hair. You may also see oval, yellow-white eggs (called nits) attached to hair. Sometimes, you can only see a few of them. It may help to use a magnifying glass.
The bites from the lice can cause small, flat, blue-grey marks on your torso, thighs, or upper arms. These marks can look like bruises. They can last for several months, even after the lice have been killed.
If you have lice in your eyelashes, your eyes can get crusty or irritated.
It's important to treat pubic lice as soon as possible. They won't go away without treatment.
There are several over-the-counter medicines that kill pubic lice. Each type of medicine is a little different. It's important to use any medicine correctly and to choose a medicine that is safe for you.
You can also talk to the pharmacist to understand how to use a medicine and make sure that it is safe for you.
You may need to repeat treatment if you still have live lice after the first treatment.
After treatment, you'll still see the shell of the nits attached to the hair. You don't have to remove them. But you can remove them with a comb.
Pubic lice are very contagious. That means they can easily spread from one person to another. But you can take steps to prevent that.
Call your doctor now if:
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Other Works ConsultedKnowles S, Shear NH (2015). Scabies and lice. Compendium of Therapeutic Choices. Ottawa: Canadian Pharmacists Association. https://www.e-therapeutics.ca. Accessed December 2, 2015.
Current as of: July 7, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family MedicineJohn Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Current as of: July 7, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
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