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Pubic Lice Signs & Symptoms

What is Public Lice?

Pubic lice (often called crabs) are tiny parasitic insects that live on coarse human body hair – like your pubic hair. They can live on other coarse hair such as underarm and leg hair, chest and back hair and even facial hair such as beards, eyelashes and eyebrows! Unlike head lice, they don’t live in scalp hair.

The insects are about 2mm long, have 6 legs and greyish/yellow in colour, but you wouldn’t know by looking at them because they are tiny. They lay eggs that look like small brown dots that latch on to the body hair, and they are called nits.

How does it spread?

Public lice can be spread through close skin to skin contact – so that means you can catch them without even having sex. They are most commonly passed through sexual contact because the insects normally live in the pubic area.

The main route of spreading pubic lice is from person to person, but you can technically get them from sharing towels or bedding.

Signs & Symptoms

After catching pubic lice, it can take serval weeks before any symptoms appear, some symptoms might be;

· Itching in the affected area -more so at night because that’s when the lice are most active. (The itching is usually caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva).

· Black powder in your underwear (lice droppings)

· Small specs of blood on your skin or in your underwear (caused by lice bites)


You should be able to diagnose yourself with public lice – but looking closely at your genital area for what’s described above. Luckily, they are easy to get rid of and you can purchase a cream, lotion or shampoo over the counter at most chemists. The treatment should then be repeated in 7 days time in order to get rid of any missed lice or eggs that may have hatched during that time. Any eggs in your body hair can be removed by a special comb that you can also get over the counter from the chemist.

You should also wash any bedding or towels you’ve been in contact with in a washing machine on a very hot cycle (50 degrees C or higher). This will kill any remaining lice, preventing re-infection.

Useful sites and further reading:

You can find out more about sexual health and STIs on our website

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