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A Biting Problem: Dealing with Pubic Lice

A Biting Problem:
Dealing with Pubic Lice

What are pubic lice?
How do you get pubic lice?
How do I avoid getting pubic lice?
How do I know if I have pubic lice?
How can I get rid of pubic lice?
Should my boyfriend get treated for pubic lice too?

What are pubic lice?
Pubic lice are tiny parasites that live on human hair and feed on human blood. They are also called crabs, because they look like crabs from the ocean. Pubic lice are not the same organisms as head lice. So you can't catch pubic lice from someone who has lice in the hair on the head. Pubic lice live on pubic hair, but they can also live on the hair in the armpit and eyelashes. Their bites cause redness and severe itching. back to top

How do you get pubic lice?
Anyone can get pubic lice. It's usually spread during intimate sexual contact, but it can also spread just by touching someone who has the lice or even by towels or bedsheets. For instance, if you're sleeping in the same bed with someone who has the lice, the bugs can jump from that person to you. Pubic lice can also live in your sheets for up to 3 days. back to top

How do I avoid getting pubic lice?
In general, you should avoid sharing clothes, such as bathing suits and underwear, with other girls. Try to avoid touching someone who has pubic lice until you're sure they've been treated and all the lice are gone. back to top

How do I know if I have pubic lice?
The most common symptom of pubic lice is intense itching, usually in the area covered by pubic hair. The skin may look red and the bites may look like tiny blue spots. You or your health professional may be able to see the tiny lice eggs stuck to the pubic hairs. The actual lice are microscopic and usually can't be seen with the naked eye. If you really want to see them, you can hold a piece of white paper up to your pubic area and brush your pubic hair. Lice will fall onto the piece of paper and you can see them against the white background. back to top

How can I get rid of pubic lice?
Here's what you need to do to get rid of pubic lice:
  • Use medicated shampoo to kill the lice on the hair in the affected area. Don't use the shampoo on your eyelashes, though! You can buy the special shampoo at the drugstore. Usually, you only use the shampoo once, but you should always follow the directions on the package carefully.
  • Shampoo alone won't get rid of all the lice. Lice eggs are clingy and remain stuck to the pubic hairs. So you have to comb through the hair with a special comb to remove each of the lice eggs. This will prevent the eggs from hatching and turning into more lice that will lay more eggs. The combs are usually included in the packages of medicated shampoo. If not, you can buy them separately at the drugstore.
  • If you have lice on your eyelashes, you will need to put a special prescription ointment on them twice a day for 10 days. You can get a prescription for this ointment from your health professional. Do not use lice shampoo anywhere near your eyes, because it can cause blindness.
  • Machine-wash and machine-dry your bed linens and clothing to kill any lice that may be living in them. Luckily, you don't need to wash every piece of clothing you own. Pubic lice can't survive away from human beings for very long. Clothes that haven't been in contact with your body for more than 72 hours will not have any living lice. back to top
Should my boyfriend get treated for pubic lice too?
You need to tell all the people you've had intimate sexual contact with that you have pubic lice. They should be treated, both for their comfort and to keep them from giving the lice right back to you or to someone else. back to top

Last Modified Date: 3/28/2001
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