Myths About Pubic Lice

Myth: Pubic lice can be contracted from toilet seats.

Fact: According to the CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pubic lice cannot live on toilet seats. Pubic lice can only survive on humans. If they fall off, they die in less than 48 hours. Additionally, pubic lice have feet specialized to grip human hair. They cannot stick to a smooth surface like a toilet seat.

Myth: You can get pubic lice from animals.

Fact: Most lice are species-specific, meaning that they are uniquely adapted to the species upon which they live. They normally cannot transfer from one species to another. So although birds, for example, can have lice, these lice cannot live on humans. Similarly, human lice cannot live on furry animals like cats or dogs.

Myth: Crabs are the same as head lice.

Fact: these are different species of lice. It is extremely rare for crabs to infest the scalp hair. Generally, head lice infest only the head, and pubic lice infest the pubic hair. Pubic lice can also infest other coarse body hair, like armpit hair, chest hair, facial hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows. There is a third type of lice that affects humans, called body lice. Body lice live in the seams of clothing. They also lay their eggs there. Body lice are usually only on the body to feed on human blood, they do not tend to stay on the body for long periods of time.

Myth: Shaving off my pubic hair will get rid of crabs.

Fact: Since the crabs can infest other areas of your body, they can easily migrate and set up shop someplace else. It is not necessary to shave your pubic hair, and it won't really help get rid of crabs.

Myth: The only way to get rid of pubic lice is to use harsh pesticide shampoos.

Fact: There are other, safer treatment methods for pubic lice. Pesticides like permethrin, Lindane, and Malathion have very dangerous side effects. They also may not be effective, since lice are becoming resistant to these pesticides.

Myth: Lice can jump or fly.

Fact: All lice, including crabs, cannot jump or fly. They can only crawl, so close contact with an infected person, their clothing, or their bedding is necessary to contract crabs.

Myth: Only dirty people get crabs.

Fact: Crabs can survive under water for a long time, and they are not affected by regular soap. Anyone can get crabs from sexual contact, or contact with infested items.

A few interesting facts about pubic lice:

  • Scientists think that people originally got pubic lice from gorillas. It is likely that transmission occurred when people ate gorillas or slept in their nests.
  • Pubic lice have been found on mummies that are one to two thousand years old, both pre-Columbian Chilean and Peruvian mummies.


Crab Louse Infestation in Pre-Columbian America

Authors: F. M. Rick; G. C. Rocha; K. Dittmar; C. E. A. Coimbra, Jr.; K. Reinhard; F. Bouchet; L. F. Ferreira; A. Araújo

In The Journal of Parasitology, Vol. 88, No. 6. (Dec., 2002), pp. 1266-1267.

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