What is it?

Pubic lice are tiny crab-like insects that nest in pubic hair. They bury their heads into the skin and live off human blood, laying their eggs (nits) near the base of the pubic hairs.

How do you get it?

Pubic lice can be spread during intimate contact. They do this by crawling from one person to another, since they have no wings. Pubic lice can live for one to two days in bedding, towels and clothing belonging to an infected individual. Lice are not related to poor hygiene. Anyone can get pubic lice, though it’s most common among sexually active people and in situations where individuals are in close contact.

What are the symptoms?

Pubic lice and nits are small and can be difficult to spot. Infected individuals may experience:

  • Skin irritation and inflammation accompanied by itchiness and redness.
  • Small blue spots on the skin where lice have bitten.
  • Louse feces, fine black particles, in the infected person’s undergarments.

How do you test for crabs?

Healthcare professionals inspect the area for the crabs and the eggs they lay. Adult lice can be identified by looking at the area with a magnifying glass, or viewing a sample of the area under a microscope.

How is it treated?

  • Non-prescription shampoo that can be purchased at a pharmacy, clinic or doctor’s office. Usually one wash is all it takes.
  • A fine-toothed comb or fingernails can be used to scrape the eggs off the hairs.
  • It’s important to tell your sexual partner(s) so they can be treated at the same time.
  • Clothes, bedding, and other possible contaminated items should be washed in hot water or dry cleaned, or bagged for a week. Items that cannot be washed or bagged should be vacuumed.
  • Shaving may not necessarily get rid of the problem

Where can I get help?

Visit one of our Sexual Health Clinics or to speak confidentially with a Public Health Nurse call 519-271-7600 or toll-free at 1-877-271-7348 extension 779.