Pubic Lice / Crabs

Every year, millions of people treat themselves for pubic lice. These tiny insects are also called "crabs" or "cooties."

Common Symptoms

  • Intense itching in the genitals or anus
  • Mild fever
  • Feeling run down
  • Irritability
  • Lice or small egg sacks — nits — in pubic hair Itching usually begins five days after infestation begins. Some people don't itch and don't know they are infested.

How Pubic Lice are Spread

  • Contact with infected bedding, clothing, upholstered furniture, and toilet seats
  • Intimate and sexual contact

Self Diagnosis

Seen with the naked eye or with a magnifying glass, pubic lice look like tiny crabs. They are pale gray but darken in color when swollen with blood. They attach themselves and their eggs to pubic hair, underarm hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows. Their eggs are white and are deposited in small clumps near the hair roots.


Follow the directions on the package insert of an over-the-counter medication. Some of the brands available are A-200®, RID®, and InnoGel® Plus. Repeated head-to-toe applications may be necessary. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and infants must use products especially designed for them, like Eurax®. Everyone who may have been exposed to pubic lice should be treated at the same time. All bedding, towels, and clothing that may have been exposed should be thoroughly washed or dry cleaned, and the home should be vacuumed.


Limit the number of intimate and sexual contacts.