Updated: Jan 23
What are Pubic Lice?
Public lice are parasitic insects found primarily in the pubic or genital area of humans. They occur in all ethnic groups, races, and levels in society. They have three forms: the egg, aka a nit, the nymph, and the adult.
Nits are lice eggs. They can be hard to see and are found firmly attached to the hair shaft. They are oval and usually yellow to white. Pubic lice nits take about 6–10 days to hatch.
The nymph is an immature louse that hatches from the nit. It looks like an adult pubic lice but it is smaller. They take about 2–3 weeks after hatching to mature into adults capable of reproducing. Nymphs feed on blood to live.
The adult pubic louse resembles a miniature crab when viewed through a strong magnifying glass. They have six legs. Their two front legs are very large and look like the pincher claws of a crab. This is a reason why they’ve gained the name “crabs.” Adults are tan to greyish-white in color, rather than the yellow from birth. Females are usually larger than males. To live, lice must feed on blood. If they lose contact with the human, they die within 1 - 2 days.
How are pubic lice spread?
Pubic lice are spread through sexual contact and are mostly transferred between two adults. If a child has pubic lice, they often have experienced some sort of sexual abuse or exposure. Occasionally, it can be spread by close contact or clothing, bed linens, and towels that came in contact with an infected person. Pubic lice are not spread by toilet seats. Only on extremely rare occasions can this ever happen. Their feet are not designed to hold on or walk on smooth surfaces like that and will likely die before there’s even a chance.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms that you may have pubic lice are itching in the genital area or seeing visible nits and crawling lice. These can be seen in pubic hair or other coarse hair, like armpits, beards, eyebrows, eyelashes, and mustaches. Lice found in hair are not the same thing as pubic lice.
Animals cannot and will not spread pubic lice.
You can also have eye irritations, which are most commonly seen in children and can lead to pink eye. This means that there are pubic lice on the eyelashes. Discolored skin may also occur, which can develop where pubic lice have been feeding on regularly. Secondary infections are also a symptom of public lice. You may scratch yourself raw and these wounds can be infected in the process.
How does testing work?
Testing for pubic lice is pretty easy.
All you have to do is have a visual examination of your pubic area and your doctor can tell relatively quickly. Lice eggs are also an indication of an infestation. They can cling to hairs and be present, but not alive, even after you’ve undergone successful treatment. Most times you don’t even need to go to get a diagnosis or get a prescription. You can just go to a drugstore or a doctor (your preference) and get an over-the-counter pubic lice treatment.
If you have pubic lice, you should also get tested for other sexually transmitted diseases.
What if I have it?
The first thing to remember is that this is nothing to be ashamed of. Three million people in America are diagnosed yearly. There are many different types of treatments that are available. They are easy to use and come in gels, shampoos, liquids, and foam. Follow the directions in the package carefully. If you have pubic lice in your eyelashes or eyebrows, you may need to get an ophthalmic-grade petrolatum ointment that only your doctor can provide. If you’re breastfeeding or pregnant, you must consult your doctor before using any treatment. Anyone you’ve gotten intimate with should also treat themselves at the same time so that it isn’t passed back and forth. Always use freshly cleaned towels, clothes, and bedding after your treatment. It is important that BOTH of you finish your treatment and don't have sex until you're sure all of the nits, nymphs, and adults are gone. You may need to repeat treatment 9-10 days later.
For real, getting frisky can wait.
Willingly risking you or your partner's sexual health isn't sexy. Peace of mind is sexy. Always make sure to listen to your doctor to effectively get rid of pubic lice.