Why Are Pubic Lice Called Crabs?

Pubic lice are called crabs due to their six-legged and crab-like appearance. If you look at a picture of a pubic louse, or Pthirus pubis, it looks remarkable similar to a crab. The louse has a rounded body, six legs, some of which have claws which help it hang onto coarse pubic hair.

What Are Pubic Lice?


Pubic lice are tiny insects that can live on people and feed off of their blood, and can be up to 1/8 inch long. Pubic Lice do not live on your pets. Pubic lice eggs, or nits, often look like dandruff, but cannot be easily brushed out of the hair. A lice infestation occurs when a large number of lice live on a person. Pubic lice are most commonly found on pubic hair, but can also be found on facial hair including eyebrows and eyelashes, chest and abdominal hair and in the armpits. Lice of all kinds are spread by contact; pubic lice are no different, and are mostly spread through sexual contact.

How Do I Know If I Have Pubic Lice?

Pubic lice attach themselves to your hair and burrow into the hair follicle and surrounding skin in order to eat blood. They lay their eggs by attaching them to the hair itself. Looking closely, you should be able to see pubic lice and their eggs. Eggs should look like dandruff, but are glued to the hair.

The most common symptom is severe itching. The skin can become inflamed and irritated, and infection may occur, especially with frequent itching. Be careful, as scratching will spread lice. Pubic lice burrow at night, so symptoms usually flare up at night.

What Should I Do If I Have Pubic Lice?

A doctor can look at the area and determine if you have pubic lice. Most commonly, an over the counter cream, lotion or shampoo is the easiest way to treat lice of all kinds. The cream is put on the infected area and kills the lice and eggs. Occasionally a second treatment is necessary to be sure the lice are gone. If the pubic lice are resistant to treatment, your doctor can give you a prescription. Most prescriptions come along with a side affect and you can never tell if your condition is really gone. Trying a natural product may be the best option for you in this case. Natural products don't have any negative side affects so you are much safer and they tend to work a lot better.

What About My Clothing and Bedding?

To kill pubic lice on your bedding or towels, wash all sheets, blankets and mattress pads, towels and washcloths in very hot water, at least 130 Fahrenheit, and dry on high heat for at least twenty minutes. Wash all clothing in the same manner. Any bedding that cannot be washed like a comforter or pillow should be put into airtight bags for at least two weeks. Be sure to vacuum as well, since lice from your clothing may have spread to the floor. Any other items that may have come in contact with lice, including a comb used to remove lice, should be washed in very hot water or immersed in rubbing alcohol for at least an hour.

Remember that having pubic lice is a fairly common problem that most people don't talk about. Don't be embarrassed. Be sure to see your doctor if you're not sure you have lice. Tell your sexual partner(s) immediately if you have lice.




Photo Credit: euthman

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