What is it?

Pubic lice (“crabs”) are small parasitic insects that live in coarse body hair such as pubic hair. They are about 2mm long and yellow-grey in colour. 

Pubic lice ("crabs") are easily passed to others through close genital contact. They're usually found in pubic hair, but can live in underarm hair, body hair, beards and occasionally eyebrows or eyelashes. It’s important to note that pubic lice are different than head lice that you would find on your scalp. 

How do I get it?

The lice crawl from hair to hair but don't jump or fly from person to person. It is typically passed through vaginal, oral or anal intercourse although can also be passed by other close bodily contact such as kissing and hugging. 

It may take several weeks for you to notice any symptoms. Most people experience itching, and you may notice the lice or eggs on the hairs.

Pubic lice are checked by physical examination. You may check yourself to see if you notice any dark tiny eggs or lice clinging to your pubic hair. You can schedule an appointment with your local Sexual Health clinic for an examination with a clinician. 

Pubic lice can usually be successfully treated with special creams or shampoos available over the counter in most pharmacies or from a GP or GUM clinic. You don't need to shave off your pubic hair or body hair. If you are diagnosed with pubic lice, it is important for your partner to be treated as well. 

Similarly, wash all your bedding, towels and underwear on an extremely hot cycle (50c) to kill any remaining lice. 

As pubic lice are passed through close contact, barrier methods such as condoms do not protect you against pubic lice. To avoid passing lice back and forth between you and your partner, ensure you both finish all treatment before engaging sexual intercourse again and thoroughly wash all bedding, clothing and towels to kill any remaining lice.