Defining Pubic Lice
Pubic lice (also known as "crabs") are six legged creatures that are most commonly discovered in the pubic area of the body, but can be found in other areas that have body hair, such as leg hair, armpits, facial hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes.
Lice found on the head are not considered pubic lice. They are known as "head lice". Pubic lice are considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). This is a common infection and can be found worldwide. Public lice are a human infection. Animals do not get or spread pubic lice.
Characteristics of Pubic Lice
Pubic lice are most commonly sexually transmitted. Lice are normally more nocturnal, becoming active and burying their heads inside the follicles of a person's pubic hair to feed on an individual's blood.
Due to pubic lice needing the warmth of an individual's body to survive (lice can only live up to one to two days without a human host), these creatures are rarely found anywhere else, such as bed linens towels clothes, or a toilet seat (pubic lice feet are not designed for movement on similar smooth surfaces). While pubic lice are generally found on an adult's body, signs of infestation on a young child or teenager may indicate sexual activity or abuse.
Symptoms of Pubic Lice
If the infestation is small, then an individual may not experience any symptoms for two to four weeks until the eggs hatch. Larger symptoms will be noticeable immediately. The most common symptoms of pubic lice are itching and inflammation of the pubic area. Inflammation is due to a reaction to the proteins in the saliva of the lice.
If a person continually itches and scratches due to the associated discomfort, this can cause the surrounding area to become raw and lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Scratching is strongly advised against as it can spread pubic lice to other parts of the body. A pubic lice infestation can be found by using a magnifying glass, and are recognized due to their crab shaped build for adult lice.
Preventing Pubic Lice
The most common and obvious way to avoid contracting and spreading public lice is to simply abstain from having sexual contact, or limit sexual activity with multiple partners. While pubic lice are generally not spread through clothing and linens, it is important to take precautions and not directly make contact with and share any related item from someone infected. Good personal hygiene is also an effective preventative measure. While using condoms to have sex is generally the best and most effective way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, condoms do not cover the area with pubic hair, so they do not provide adequate protection from pubic lice.
Know the Facts
It is important to have full regular physical exams to screen and check for sexually transmitted diseases. If there are any concerns that an individual may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease, it is important to check with a doctor to discuss potential treatment options.