The Unwelcome Guests: Understanding Crabs (Pubic Lice)

What are Crabs?

Crabs (Phthirus pubis) are small insects that live and reproduce mainly in the pubic hair. Crabs, or pubic lice, are one of three types of lice that infest humans – in addition, there are also head lice and body lice. Crabs stick to thick (pubic) hair with their claws. This is primarily in the genital area, around the anus and also on the legs, forearms and chest. They rarely attack eyelashes, eyebrows, armpit hair or beard hair. 


How do I know?

The main symptom of pubic lice is itching, which may start about 5 days after the first contact.

A person may also notice small red bumps or spots on the skin, blue spots on the thighs or lower abdomen, dark brown or black powder — louse droppings — on the skin or in the underwear. Symptoms can affect the pubic region or any part of the body that has hair, including the eyelashes.


How do we get infected? And how do I protect myself?

They are transmitted during sex, but also on beds or pillowcases, and are noticeable by itchiness on hairy parts of the body.

They are transmitted through direct contact with an infected person via the affected body regions. Direct contact with infected bedding and clothing is less common to result in an infection.


How is it treated?

Crabs are treated with a solution that is applied to all body hair found below the neck. Bed sheets and clothes must be washed at over 50°C. The treatment might have to be repeated 9-10 days after in case new ones emerge from the nits (eggs). In addition, close physical contact and sex must be avoided until all the partners are completely successfully treated and followed up.


Check out more content on STIs like Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Hepatitis A/B, Hepatitis C, Herpes, HPV, Genital Warts, Scabies, Fungi.

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About the Author: Raju Behara (she/they), a trans-disabled Peer Support Provider with a decade of healthcare experience, holds a Masters in Pharmacology and a PG Diploma in Health Economics, Health Policy at the Indian Institute of Public Health. Aligned with the Safe Access Community Wellbeing Project, Raju has contributed to LGBTQIA+ safety in Indian workplaces, drafting gender-neutral dress codes and working on sensitization. A published author and poet in various anthologies, Raju, through EQUAL fellowship, chronicled social histories of housing, healthcare and workplace discrimination for queer-trans individuals in India. They initiated ‘Queer & Quarantine’, a crisis intervention program for trans folks facing housing challenges.

Article Vetted by: Dr. Swathi SB


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