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Pubic Lice are sometimes referred to as Crabs. They are tiny insects similar to head lice that feed off us by sucking our blood. They generally live in any body hair apart from on the head. This could be in pubic hair, chest hair, underarm hair, eyebrows and eyelashes.
Pubic lice travel around our bodies by crawling from hair to hair and lay their eggs at the shaft of hairs. They cannot jump or fly so transmission is by close body contact. Sexual or close bodily contact is the most likely route of transmission though it is possible to become infected by sharing bedding, towels or clothes with an infected person. It is extremely unlikely that you could pick them up from a toilet seat or sitting next to someone on the bus.
Symptoms typically include:
- itching, irritation and scratching
- black powder from insect droppings in underclothes and bedding
- visible insects in body hair
Although very easy to pick up, they are also relatively easy to treat. Treatment involves applying a lotion over the whole body (these can be bought from pharmacies or prescribed from health care centres). These lotions need to be left on for about 12 hours before washing off and this will kill the insects and their eggs. Bedding and clothes should also be washed on a hot 60 degree cycle.
It is possible for itching to continue for a week or two even if the treatment has been successful – calamine lotion can help to relieve this itchiness.