Pubic Lice Infestation Can Lead to a Bacterial Infection

The 411 on Pubic Lice

Pubic lice (also known as "crabs") are tiny six legged creatures that are found in coarse, hairy areas of the body, primarily pubic hair and feed upon blood of humans. Pubic lice are a worldwide common infection and are known to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

While pubic lice on its own can cause several related symptoms such as inflamed skin and itchiness, it is a relatively non dangerous condition. However, there are several secondary side effects than can make the condition become very dangerous to a person.

Secondary Infections of Pubic Lice

Due to the itchiness of lice, constant scratching and picking at the skin can cause the surrounding area to become raw, resulting in hives or abrasions. Not only does this help to spread the lice, it can also result in causing a secondary bacterial infection. Secondary bacterial infections can range greatly.

One such infection is called impetigo, a highly contagious skin infection that starts as a red sore that breaks open, oozes for a few days, and then scabs over. Impetigo can spread to other parts of the body, or to other people through contact. Pubic lice can also cause blepharitis on small children, which is an irritation or infection of the eyelids.

Other Dangerous Secondary Infections

As stated before, an infestation of pubic lice is not a dangerous infection by itself. It can however become a serious public health problem as some lice can carry organisms that cause other diseases. These diseases include relapsing fever, trench fever, and epidemic typhus. Although trench fever is a self limiting condition, the other two diseases have recorded mortality rates of five to ten percent.

Treating Secondary Infections

While pubic lice are often associated with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), there is no spread of the infection unless direct contact is made through sexual activity or sharing contaminated clothing or linens. Antibiotics can be prescribed to treat secondary infections if an affected area is raw or has open lesions from scratching.

Using creams or lotions that contain anti-lice agents are frequently prescribed for treating the symptoms of pubic lice. Since pubic lice can live in bedding and clothing, all linens and clothing materials should be washed in hot water, then put on the "hot" cycle of the dryer for at least 20 minutes. If there are items that can not be washed, these articles should be sealed in an airtight plastic bag for ten to fourteen days before reuse.

Talk to Your Doctor

Public lice symptoms can range anywhere from two to four weeks before they begin to appear. Once the symptoms are recognized, it is important to seek and receive medical attention in order to treat and remove the risk of getting any secondary infections. Additionally, anyone who has come into contact with an infested person or contaminated clothing should be made aware of the potential infection so that they can be screen and treated for contagion if necessary.


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