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Pubic Lice


  • Pubic (PEW-bik) lice are also called crabs, crab lice, or pediculosis (puh-DIK-u-lo-sis) pubis. Pubic lice live in the hairy area between and around your genitals. Pubic lice can also be on beards, leg hairs, underarms, eyelashes and brows, clothing, or bedding. Pubic lice are easily spread from person to person during sex or while sharing clothes or bedding. Special shampoos, lotions, and creams are used to treat pubic lice.
  • Pubic lice are insects that bite the skin and feed on blood. Adult lice look like tiny crabs. They are the size of a pinhead. They are flat and light gray or brown. Adults lay nits (eggs) and glue them so tightly to body hair that they cannot be removed with normal washing. Nymphs hatch from nits and become adults in about 7 days.
    Pictures of a nit and an adult pubic louse



  • Always take your medicine as directed by caregivers. If you think it is not helping or that you are having side effects, call your caregiver.
  • Carefully follow your caregiverʼs directions or the instructions on the lice medicine. Some lice medicines may cause you to be very sick if not used correctly. Do not leave lice medicine on your skin and hair longer than instructed. Do not use it more often than instructed.
  • Put on clean underwear and clothes after your lice medicine treatment.
  • Throw away all lice medicine that you do not use. Do not use old lice medicine.

Body contact:

Tell sex partners and anyone who has shared your clothes or bed in the last month about the lice. They should be checked for lice and treated if they find lice on their body. Do not have sex or other close body contact with anyone until all the lice and nits are gone from you and them.

Clean clothes and bedding:

Wash all clothes, towels, and bedding that you have used in hot, soapy water. Place them in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. You may also use a hot iron. Some items like overcoats and comforters cannot be washed or are too large to be put in a washing machine. Dry clean or pack these items in an airtight plastic bag for 1 month.


Always remove dying lice or any nits that you see after the lice treatment. Remove them with your fingernails or with a fine-toothed comb. Start where the hair comes out of your skin and comb outward. Do this once a day until all lice and nits are gone. Nits that remain on the body hair may not have been killed by the lice medicine. If they hatch, you will have a lice problem again.

Eyelashes and eyebrows:

Try to remove all lice and nits using your fingernails or a fine-toothed comb. Otherwise, contact your caregiver. Your caregiver may also prescribe a special ointment or gel to put on your eyelashes or brows. This should make it easier for you to comb or pick off lice and nits. Your caregiver may prescribe special eye drops to paralyze (PAIR-uh-lize) lice so they are easier to pick off.


Your skin may continue to itch even after all the lice and nits are gone. Scratching can spread lice if they are still on your body. Ask your caregiver if you should use medicine on the areas of your body that itch.


You do not have to shave or cut the hair in the area that has lice. This could cause your skin to become more itchy and irritated.


  • The bites become pus-filled or crusty. This could mean the bite areas are infected.
  • Your scalp hair becomes matted or foul-smelling. Sometimes pubic lice infest the head.
  • If your skin is burning, itchy, or numb after the lice treatment. Also if it is red, stinging, or swollen after the lice treatment. You may be allergic to the lice medicine.
  • Itching or red, swollen bite marks return after your lice medicine treatment.
  • You have any problems that may be related to the medicine you are taking.


  • You have a fever and shaking chills.
  • You are dizzy, feel sick or vomit (throw up), or have seizures after the lice treatment.

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.

Further information

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

Learn more about Pubic Lice (Discharge Care)

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference