Pubic lice (crabs)

Pubic lice (crabs) are tiny insects that can live in your pubic and other body hair. They can itch, bite and lay eggs. They're easy to treat but you should get tested if repeat treatments don't work.

This could be for you if: 

  • You think you might have crabs 
  • You want to know what pubic lice/crabs are
  • You want to know to treat crabs
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What are pubic lice?

Pubic lice, often called crabs, are tiny insects that live in public hair. They're usually passed on through sex, but can also be transmitted other ways like by sharing a towel. Pubic lice can be effectively treated and cured.

Symptoms of public lice

Crabs can:

  • Make you itchy around your penis, vagina or anus
  • Cause tiny blue spots to develop on the skin around your genitals
  • Leave spots of blood on your underwear where you've been bitten
  • Have lice or tiny eggs that you can see in your pubic hair 
You can also get them in your armpits, or even eyelashes – they can be transferred when you scratch. 

Treating pubic lice 

You can normally see public lice but the best way to be sure is to get a sexual health check with your doctor, medical centre or sexual health clinic. Call 1300 658 886 to find out where to go near you. If you think you've got crabs, you can also just get a treatment (medical shampoo) over the counter at the chemist. It is also important to:  

  • Tell people you live with or sleep with so they can treat it too
  • Hot-wash or dry-clean your sheets, doona, pillowcase and towels
If the pubic lice or itching does not go away, it’s worth getting checked out at a medical centre or sexual health clinic.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 06 August, 2015
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  • Ben-RO    (417 days ago)

    Thanks for the awesome feedback @JasonM I have let our content people know and we've added your suggestions to the list of things to change in this article. Nice one mate!

  • JasonM    (418 days ago)

    Pretty good article on public lice / crabs. I've encountered it before unfortunately. I will note that you guys missed the ball a bit in that there are some nasty infections that can result from it. Thankfully it's an easily treatable STI. One article that helped me out a lot when I encountered my case recently was I'd suggest including some of the information there on this site like the infection information and the lice life cycle.