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Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are tiny insects that live on body hair, usually in the pubic area. They are also called crabs. Pubic lice are spread by close person to person contact, including sexual contact. Pubic lice will not go away without treatment - they need to be treated using a special shampoo that you can buy without a prescription.

For more information on symptoms, causes, treatments and prevention see the Overview section.

Information for Health Professionals

Pubic lice are tiny insects that live on body hair, usually in the pubic area. They are also called crabs. The lice can also infest armpit hair, chest hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and facial hair.  


Usually, the infected area is very itchy. Bites from the lice can cause a rash or small bluish spots on your skin. The spots may last for several months, even after all lice have been killed. 

Along with the symptoms described, you will likely see tiny specks on your pubic hair that can't be pulled off. These specks are the eggs, called nits, laid by adult lice. 

Pubic lice are like a lot of other STIs - you may be infected and have no signs or symptoms. 


Pubic lice are spread by close person-to-person contact with someone who has pubic lice, including sexual contact. They can also spread by sharing an infected person's bedding, clothing or towels. They cannot jump or fly. Condoms do not prevent the spread of pubic lice.


The adult lice (pale gray but darken in color when swollen with blood) and nits (white, deposited in small clumps near the hair roots) can be seen with a magnifying glass. The pubic lice are typically 1mm in length. It is easier to see the nits on the hair than it is to see the actual lice.  


Pubic lice will not go away without treatment. Pubic lice need to be treated by using a special shampoo, cream or lotion that you can buy without a prescription. Follow the directions carefully. A pharmacist or public health nurse will be able to provide information on these treatments.

All of your sexual partners need to be treated. Other people living in your house do not need to be treated unless they have shared your bed, clothes or towels. All clothes and bed sheets need to be washed with hot water (50 degrees Celcius), dry cleaned or place items in a hot dryer for 30 minutes. Anything that cannot be washed in hot water or dry cleaned should be put in a sealed airtight plastic bag for 7 days to kill the lice.

Contact a health care professional if the lice do not go away after the first treatment, or if you have any signs of a skin infection. Skin infections can be caused by frequent scratching.


Avoid close person-to-person contact with someone who has pubic lice as well as avoiding sharing their clothes or towels.

SOURCE: Pubic Lice ( )
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