Pubic Lice – Crabs

Itchy? Maybe You Have Crabs! Have you ever noticed that just the mention of the word lice causes your skin to begin to itch? The ...

by Staff

Pubic Lice – Crabs

Itchy? Maybe You Have Crabs!

Have you ever noticed that just the mention of the word lice causes your skin to begin to itch? The psychological effect is very powerful. However, it doesn’t carry near the impact of the real thing. And, the real thing is miniscule and mighty. Pubic lice, crab lice, or just plain crabs, are a type of sexually transmitted parasite that can cause no end of grief to those who are infested. While the primary way of sharing these critters is through sexual transmission, an infested adult can share them with children through towels, clothing and bedding. Small children don’t usually get crabs – and it can be an indication of abuse if they do have them. Should a child contract crabs they will propagate on the eye lashes and eyebrows because crabs live in hair.

Lifecycle of Public Lice

Pubic lice morph through a process. They begin at eggs, called nits. They’re very hard to see and are found attached very firmly to the base of the hairs in the pubic area. Men generally have to deal with them on other areas of the body, like the abdomen and armpits as well as the legs, if they happen to have a lot of body hair. When the nits hatch, they are called nymphs. Immature crabs look exactly like mature crabs, only a smaller version. It takes them between two and three weeks to become an adult that can reproduce. The nymph, like the adult, needs blood to live. The adult crab (called crab because it has pinchers on the front two of its six legs), is tan or grey in color and the females are generally larger than the males. Since they need blood to live, if a louse falls from a human body it will die within 24 to 48 hours.

Lice Are Disease Carriers

Although lice infestations are not dangerous by themselves, they do pose a serious health risk because they can be carriers of organisms that cause other diseases. There is a definite link between public lice and other STDs although they do not spread them. Relapsing fever, trench fever and epidemic typhus have all been associated with pubic lice infestation. Relapsing fever and epidemic typhus have mortality rates of five to ten percent. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to typhus and some of the other diseases carried by lice. All people are equally susceptible to lice infestations, but they are more frequent in areas where there is overcrowding or inadequate facilities to bathe and wash clothing. They are often associated with homelessness in the general population or with military, refugee, or prison camps in areas that experience a lot of war and disruption.

Treating Body and Environment

Treatment of pubic lice is done through products that are available over-the-counter without a prescription at a local pharmacy. When they are used exactly as prescribed, they are relatively safe and effective. Pregnant women should not use certain treatments because they present a danger to the unborn baby. To learn more about the types of treatments available to treat pubic lice, check out our article in this section.

Dealing with the lice on the body is only part of the process. It is equally important to treat the environment as well. The process of delousing should go from the body to the bedding as follows:

· Thoroughly was the infested area and dry with a towel.

· Follow the manufacturer’s instructions explicitly and carefully in treating your body. Thoroughly saturate the pubic hair and any other infested areas with the medication. Leave on for the prescribed time then remove according to the directions.

· Nits will likely remain attached to the hairs and will have to be picked off or combed out.

· Put on clean underwear and clothing after you’ve completed the treatment.

· In order to kill any remaining lice, nits, or nymphs that remain on clothing, bedding or towels, machine-wash and machine-dry the laundry used by the infested person from the previous two or three days. Use very hot water and the hot cycle on the dryer.

· Dry clean items that can’t be laundered or store them in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks.

· All sex partners from the previous month should be contacted, informed and treated.

· Until both the individual as well as sex partners have been successfully treated, abstaining from sexual contact is the best way to avoid re-infestation.

· If live lice are found, repeat the process in about 10 days.

· Get an checkup and evaluation for other STDs

If the lice are on the eyebrows or eyelashes:

· They may be removable with a nit comb or with fingernails

· If additional treatment is necessary, the use of a special ophthalmic-grade petrolatum ointment that is only available by prescription can be applied to the eyelid margins two to four times a day for 10 days.

For more detailed information about pubic lice, symptoms and treatment, see our articles in this section


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