Pubic lice or crabs are properly known as Phthirus pubis.
How do you get pubic lice?
Pubic lice are contracted by close contact and are easily transmitted sexually. Pubic lice have become very uncommon in developed countries since shaving of pubic hair has become popular.
Clinical presentation of pubic lice
The pubic hair is most common site but pubic lice can spread to other hairy parts of the body including armpit, beard, chest hair and thigh hair. Eyelashes can also be affected.
Pubic lice infestation results in itching. Blood specks on underclothes and live lice moving in the pubic hair are occasionally noted. Tiny bleeding spots or bite marks may be noted within the pubic hairs.
Treatment of pubic lice
Typically, a cream is applied directly to the skin and hair and lathered up like shampoo. A small portion may be absorbed into the body and for this reason it is important to follow the manufacturer's advice on duration of treatment.
- It is important to apply the shampoo to all hairy parts of the body apart from the eyelids and scalp – from neck to knees.
- The cream is easily applied while in the shower.
- Work thoroughly into lather and leave on for five minutes.
- Rinse off thoroughly and dry with a towel.
- Any remaining nits (small white spots attached to hair shaft) should be removed by using a fine toothed comb.
- A repeat application is advisable 7 days later.
- Shampoo should not be applied near the eyes. Lice and nits can be removed by using a pair of fine forceps. Alternatively petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline can be smeared on the eyelashes twice a day for at least 3 weeks.
- Wash underwear and bed linen thoroughly in hot water to prevent recurrences.
- Sexual partners need to be treated even if they deny itching and do not appear to be infected.
- You may be at risk of other more serious sexually transmitted infections. It is advisable to attend your doctor or sexual health clinic for a check-up.