Pubic lice, or 'crabs' as they're more commonly known, are parasitic insects which prey only on humans. They live on pubic hair (groin, underarms, mustache, and beard) or, in some cases, on facial hair like the eyebrows and eyelashes.
Pubic lice feed off the blood of humans by biting the skin at the base of a hair follicle. These bites cause inflammation and itching, making an infestation highly uncomfortable.
Lice come in three stages. Adult lice can propagate fairly quickly. Upon sexual maturation, they will feed and then mate soon after. After gestating only 1-2 days, they will lay about 3 eggs per day, laying approximately 30 eggs over the course of their lifetime.
The eggs are cemented toward the base of a hair with a substance the female produces, making the eggs somewhat difficult to remove. In about 10 days the eggs will hatch, resulting in an immature louse, or nymph.
Although the nymph is sexually immature and, therefore, cannot mate, it can crawl and take blood meals, contributing to the inflammation and itching of an infestation. The nymph will reach sexual maturity approximately 10 days after hatching, at which point it will continue feeding 4 to 5 times a day, mate, and lay eggs.
Lice infestations can be treated with various shampoos or ointments, both of which have prescription, over-the-counter, and natural options. Wet hair with vinegar (helps to degrade cement-like substance which attaches eggs to hair) and comb hair from root to tip.
All bed linens, towels, and clothing should be washed in hot water and dried under hot air. Things which cannot be washed should be sealed in a plastic bag for at least 10 days.
Anyone who may have come into contact with the infected individual, such as sexual partners, should take care of them selves before getting involved with anyone else. Lice infestations can take up to 6 weeks to present symptoms, making it very easy for one person to spread the infestation to another unknowingly.
The best way to prevent pubic lice is through abstinence. Because this route is unreasonable for most people, limiting the number of one's sexual partners is the second best way to prevent an infestation. It is best to be open with sex partners and know their sexual history. Pubic lice cannot jump or fly, but they can crawl very quickly and are rarely felt by their host. Lice can even be transmitted via oral sex. Bottom line: know your sex partners and their histories.
It is important to remember that a pubic lice infestation will not go away on its own. Lice are very adept at surviving in their chosen niche and will continue to flourish as long as they are left alone. Lice bites, while irritating, are relatively harmless. However, with enough scratching, the skin of the infected area can become raw and susceptible to a more serious secondary infection.