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Pubic Lice

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


Pubic lice

, or crabs, are tiny bugs that live on blood in your genital area. They are tan, gray, or brown, and are about the size of a sesame seed. They lay eggs (nits) and attach the eggs to body hair. Pubic lice are spread through direct contact. For example, sharing clothing or bedding with someone who has lice. You can also get lice if you have sex with someone who has lice.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Severe itching that may be worse at night
  • Red marks or swollen areas near the hair strands
  • Small bumps on your genital area

Call your doctor if:

  • Your pubic lice do not go away, even after treatment.
  • The lice bites become filled with pus or crusty, or your skin has a bad smell.
  • Your skin burns, stings, swells, or is numb after you use lice medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Lice medicine is used to kill pubic lice and is available without a doctor's order. Lice medicine usually comes as a lotion or cream. Use it as directed. You may need to apply the medicine to hair on your chest, underarms, and groin. Throw away all lice medicine that you do not use. Keep it away from your eyes. Other medicines may also be given to decrease itching and inflammation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

Manage your pubic lice:

  • Comb out lice with a fine tooth comb. This will remove the lice and eggs. Do this once a day until all lice and eggs are gone.
  • Wash all clothes, towels, and bedding in hot, soapy water. Dry them on the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes. Items that cannot be washed or dry cleaned should be sealed in an airtight plastic bag for 2 weeks. Do not share towels and sheets with others. Vacuum furniture, rugs, carpets, car seats, or other fabrics.

Prevent the spread of pubic lice:

  • Tell sexual partners about your pubic lice so they can also be screened and treated. Limit the number of sexual partners. Shaving pubic hair and using condoms does not prevent the spread of pubic lice.
  • Do not have close body contact with anyone until all your lice are gone.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Pubic Lice

Treatment options

Care guides

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.