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Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are tiny parasitic insects that live in coarse body hair, such as pubic hair. It can be found in pubic hair, underarm and leg hair, hair on the abdomen and chest, beards and, rarely, in eyebrows and eyelashes. They do not live in the hair on the head. Occasionally pubic lice may be spread by contact with clothing, bedding and towels that have been used by someone with pubic lice.


  • Pubic lice are yellow-grey and about 2mm long. They have a crab-like appearance, so they are often known as crabs.
  • Pubic lice usually are found in the genital area on pubic hair; but they may occasionally be found on other coarse body hair, such as hair on the legs, armpits, mustache, beard, eyebrows, or eyelashes. Pubic lice on the eyebrows or eyelashes of children may be a sign of sexual exposure or abuse. Lice found on the head generally are head lice, not pubic lice.
  • In most cases, pubic lice are transmitted sexually from the pubic hair of one person to another. But lice can be contracted in other ways, too — from infested clothing, towels, and bedding.
  • Lice cannot live long away from a warm human body and they do not have feet designed to hold onto or walk on smooth surfaces such as toilet seats.

How common

In the United States, there are an estimated 3 million cases of crabs every year. Due to their claws, they basically live only in the pubic area with occasional travel to the eyelashes and eyebrows. The lowest incidence of pubic lice infestation occurs in the UK and Germany with population infestations being reported at less than 2% in the overall population.

In Asia, China has the highest population of pubic lice with 14,325,524 people, and the lowest figure is Macau with 4.911 people. Other than that in Europe the ultimate rank is Russia with number 1.587.949 and the lowest is 355 Monaco people. Africa is Egypt with the highest ultimate rank 839,530 people and with the lowest 12, 896 people in South Africa, in Oceania, Australia reached 219,630 people and top ranking in Oceania.

Chances of being infected

Statistically the transmission of pubic lice occurs at the highest rate during sexual activity some estimates put it as high as 80% of the cases are contracted from sexual contact.

How to detect if someone has it

Pubic Lice - Detect

  • There may be tiny, brownish insects moving around pubic hair.
  • Dark or bluish spots can appear in the infested area; these are also a result of the bites.
  • Crabs are usually found in the pubic area. However, crabs can also be found in the armpits, eyelashes, beard/mustache and other coarse hair. Sometimes, though rarely, crabs are found in the hair on a person’s head.


  • Unfortunately there’s no preventive medication or vaccine to prevent contracting this disease. Latex barrier or wearing condom does not help since the lice live in pubic hair and not on the genitals. So be sure to wash hands and toys thoroughly after “handling” your partner’s fluids and before touching your own.
  • Pubic lice can live off the body. However, because pubic lice depend on human blood for survival, they will rarely leave the body unless there is close body contact with another person. Pubic lice move by crawling from hair to hair – they cannot fly or jump.
  • Occasionally pubic lice may be spread by contact with clothing, bedding and towels that have been used by someone with pubic lice. In this case, you need to wash clothes, bedding and all fabrics that have come in contact with the infected person (that you knew) in the last two days. Wash by using washing machine with hot water and dry in a hot dryer.

Condom effectiveness

Unfortunately, because condoms don’t cover the area with pubic hair, they are not good protection against pubic lice.


  • Permethrin cream

The cream can be applied to the affected area and washed off after 10 minutes, should not be used for treatment of eyelashes or eyebrows.

  • Lindane shampoo

A shampoo that is applied to the affected area and thoroughly washed off after 4 minutes; available only by prescription, should not be used for treatment of eyelashes or eyebrows or should not be used on broken skin.

  • Pyrethrins with piperonyl butoxide shampoo

This shampoo is applied to the affected area and washed off after 10 minutes.

Best sources for more information

The risk chart is the heart of this guide, and it can be found here

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