Crabs (Pubic Lice)

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What Is It?

Pubic Lice (Crabs) are small insects, similar to head lice, with crab like claws, which allow them to hold on tight to pubic hair. Although crabs are particularly fond of pubic hair, they can also live in armpits and even eyebrows and eyelashes and other forms of facial hair. They are big enough to see, although because they live in pubic hair they often go unnoticed.

Crabs cannot jump or fly.

Due to the range of possible routes of transmission it is important to remember that the appearance of crabs in a partner does not necessarily mean that they have been having sex with someone else.

It’s also worth remembering that crabs will get around however clean you keep yourself and your environment: they are not associated with poor hygiene.



Itching which is continual and gets worse. Sometimes you may notice black spots in your underwear (crab poo). On occasion you may see some lice.



Crabs are most commonly transmitted through sex; any form of body contact is an opportunity for them, such as cuddling.

However they can also be transmitted by sharing towels, bedding, (such as sleeping bags) or clothing as they can live outside of the body for up to 24 hours and can crawl.



There is really no way of avoiding getting crabs if you are unlucky enough to encounter them. Crabs are like head lice, they go where they want to go.

Something you can do to help reduce the risk of contracting pubic lice is look at the person’s genitals. If you see lice then you can wait until they have been treated before you do anything sexual with the person.



If you contract crabs you should avoid sex until they have been cleared.

Shaving your pubic hair, whilst it might make you feel better, does not get rid of the crabs but does remove their eggs. The crabs will cling on to you and crawl to other body hair. If you do decide to shave, do it a long while after you have applied the lotion.

It is a good idea to wash your towels, clothes and bedding in a hot wash as soon as you begin your own treatment in order to avoid recurrence. Try not to borrow other people’s clothes until you are sure the crabs have gone.


Remember – Regular screening at your local STI clinic is recommended to maintain your sexual health.



Crabs are quite easy to get rid of by using lotions, these are available over the counter at a chemist.

You may want to go to your local STI clinic to be advised of the best treatment but you can also simply ask a pharmacist.

Take care to follow the instructions properly; don’t be tempted to use too much as this may cause an allergy.

You may need to put the lotion on more than once. Always read the instructions before doing so.