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Pubic Lice Advocacy Sheet

By EmpowHER

Pubic lice (crabs) is the most contagious sexually transmitted disease (STD). There's a 90 percent chance you will be infected if you have sexual relations with someone with pubic lice. Pubic lice are tiny parasitic insects visible to the human eye that feed on human blood and live in the coarse hair (pubic, eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, mustache, chest, armpits, etc.) found on the body. Children can contract pubic lice from an infected adult (which raises red flags of sexual abuse).

Symptoms are intense itching in the pubic area, genital lesions (red bumps due to bites) and marks from excessive scratching.  A doctor can diagnose pubic lice by simply looking at the infected area. Pregnant women and children who suspect they have pubic lice should contact their doctor for treatment as some of the treatments may have adverse effects.

Here are some crucial questions to ask your doctor:

  • How is pubic lice treated? Over-the-counter (self-care) treatments such as Rid or Nix will often help get rid of pubic lice. A doctor may prescribe a treatment lotion or ointment if the pubic lice is particularly resistant.
  • How do I rid my home and personal items of infestation? Once pubic hair, or other areas of infection are treated, remaining nits and lice can be removed using tweezers. Another method of removal includes soaking hair in vinegar and stripping it with a cloth, or combing it after a few minutes using a fine-toothed comb. Hair can be cut short to help alleviate the problem. Following treatment, clean garments should be worn. All contaminated items (bedding, clothing, towels, etc.) should be thoroughly washed and cleaned in hot, soapy water (at least 130 degrees) and then dried on high heat for at least 20 minutes.
  • Do I need to tell my sexual partner(s)? It is important to inform partners to avoid further spread of the condition. All sexual partners should be treated for pubic lice.
  • How can I prohibit getting pubic lice and other STDs? Abstain from sexual contact and sharing bedding or clothing with anyone known to have pubic lice until they have effectively been treated.
  • Should I abstain from sexual activity during treatment, and for how long?
  • Is there any printed material or websites I can review for more information?
  • What are long term risks of pubic lice? If left untreated, pubic lice can cause secondary bacterial infection caused by skin irritation. It may be a good idea to be tested for other STDs.

Resources –
www.mayoclinic.com Pubic lice (crabs)
www.cdc.gov Pubic lice

Check out EmpowHER’s page on Sexually Transmitted Diseases including Pubic lice (crabs) for more information.

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