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Pubic Lice (Crabs)

No, we're not talking about the sea creatures.

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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We’re all familiar with headlice, those tiny little creatures who cause havoc in our hair, but they aren’t the only insects who make us feel the itch.

Some people may feel the urge to scratch their genitalia (down below) and parasitic pests called pubic lice are to blame for it.

Pubic Lice: The Facts

  • Pubic lice are small insects that are normally found lurking around your genitals, primarily in the pubic area.
  • Ever heard someone in a film or on TV talking about “crabs”? Well, these little devils are what they’re talking about. They’re also known as crab lice, hence the term.
  • Sometimes you’ll find them in hair on other parts of the body including the legs, armpits, mustache, beard, eyebrows, or eyelashes. Don’t confuse them with head lice though: If you find them in the hair on your head they’re usually not pubic lice.

What symptoms should I look out for?

Well, there’ll be an almighty urge to itch and you might even be able to see the little lice crawling around your genitalia.

Sometimes you’ll be able to spot their eggs on the little strands of hair down there too.

How on earth did they end up down there?

  • There’s really only one way to get pubic lice and that’s through sexual contact. It’s the most common form of transmission in adults.
  • On very rare occasions it may be possible to catch them from clothing, bed linens or towels used by an infested person.
  • However, it’s important to note that the lice need human blood to survive so they don’t actually survive very long when they’ve been separated from the human body.

Please tell me there’s a way to get rid of them?

Of course there is, thankfully, and you should start treating them right away. Otherwise you run the risk of passing them on to someone else.

  • You can pick up creams for both you and your partner at the chemist that should get rid of them.
  • It’s not enough to just use the creams though. If you have pubic lice you should have a full STI screening to make sure you aren’t carrying any other infections.

Ok, got it. Now how can I avoid getting them in the first place?

Well, it’s very very simple: Avoid all sexual contact with someone who has them. Unfortunately, while condoms are the only form of safer sex method that can protect against sexually transmitted infections, they don't stop you from getting pubic lice! So it's important that if you or your partner have them, that you get tested, get treated and avoid all sexual contact until the infection is cleared.

Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.

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Published December 1st, 2014
Last updated June 10th, 2015
Tags stis sexual health health
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