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Pubic Lice

Summary: Pubic lice, also known as crabs, are tiny parasites that are transmitted through sexual contact. Lice issues should be discussed with your doctor, not a pest control professional.

Ever had a bad case of ants in the pants? If all that itching and jumping around isn't this year's newest dance craze, then you might be the victim of a common sexually transmitted disease called pubic lice.

Pubic lice are small parasitic insects that cling to the course hairs on the human body especially underarms, eyebrows, in beards and mustaches, or around genitals. Pubic lice are different from head lice and are not usually found on the hair on top of the head.

Pubic lice feed only on human blood, making it impossible to catch pubic lice from an animal. The lice cannot survive away from the human body for more than a day or two, so it is unlikely that you can indirectly catch crabs from an object that has been exposed to pubic lice like a toilet seat. However, cases of contamination from trying on articles of clothing in public dressing rooms have been reported. Caution is recommended when trying on an article of clothing that has been worn by someone else, especially bathing suits and undergarments.

Pubic lice are transmitted by skin to skin contact, most often by sexual contact. The lice attach to hair and look like white or grey specks that appear to be crawling around. Condoms can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted disease, but will not prevent the spread of pubic lice because condoms do not cover the area of pubic hair where the lice reside. The best way to prevent catching pubic lice is to avoid skin to skin contact with an infected person by being careful about intimate contact with new sexual partners.

Itching is the most noticeable symptom of pubic lice. This becomes more intense at night when the lice burrow under the skin to feed. Skin can become inflamed or infected from too much scratching of the infected area. Some people might also experience feelings of fatigue or a mild fever.

To get rid of pubic lice it is necessary to get rid of all lice and lice eggs, called nits. There are several kinds of chemical shampoo treatments available that will kill the lice, but additional measures might be needed to remove all the nits. The shampoo is called a pediculice and might contain active ingredients such as Permethrin or Pyrethrin. Lindane is another pediculicide, but this product has health risks and is banned in several countries. Children and pregnant or nursing mothers should not use any product containing Lindane. Malathion is an insecticide sometimes used to cure lice, but it is another chemical treatment with severe health risks. Rather than risking side effects from exposure to a potentially dangerous chemical, it is recommended to shave pubic hair and thoroughly remove all nits manually using a fine toothed comb to get rid of pubic lice. Avoid any kind of close contact with anyone until the treatment is completed, and sterilize all linens and fabrics that have come in contact with pubic lice by washing them in hot water.

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