The fun stuff
NSW Government

Let’s talk about Pubic Lice, or Crabs.

What are Pubic Lice?

Pubic lice are tiny insects that generally live on the pubic hair around the genitals. They can sometimes attach to chest, underarm or other body hair, but they are not the same as head lice. They are spread through close genital-to-genital contact.

Symptoms of Pubic Lice

The main symptom is itchiness in the pubic hair. If you’re feeling itchy, check the pubic hair closely and see if you can spot any crabs or nits (tiny white eggs) clinging to the hair.

Do I need to worry?

If you think you have pubic lice, don’t worry; they’re not dangerous and they’re simple to treat. The best thing to do is visit your doctor while you have symptoms. They’ll be able to confirm if it’s pubic lice just by having a quick look. While you’re there, it’s a good opportunity to get tested for other STIs as well.

Treatment of Pubic Lice

Surprisingly, shaving won’t always get rid of pubic lice. The best course of treatment is applying a cream containing a chemical called Permethrin to the affected area (e.g. Lyclear cream or Quellada lotion). You can get these medications over the counter at a pharmacy – you don’t need a prescription. Antihistamine pills can also help to reduce the itchiness.

Remember to wash any clothes, towels and bed sheets that you’ve used in the past week. Sexual partners and anyone who’s recently shared your clothes or linens should also be told about the pubic lice so they can check themselves and get treatment, if needed.

If you want to know more you can ring the NSW Sexual Health Infolink (confidentially) on 1800 451 624 between 9:00am and 5:30pm Monday to Friday to talk with a sexual health nurse. And always remember you can ask our own Nurse Nettie a question.