What is it?
Pubic lice are tiny, crab-like insects that live on body hair.
- Pubic hair
- Underarm hair
- Body hair
- Eyebrows or eyelashes
They do not live on the hair on the head.
The pubic lice are a yellow-grey colour and approximately 2mm long. They travel around the body by crawling from hair to hair laying eggs as they go. The eggs appear as brownish dots that are fixed to the body hair.
How is it passed on?
Pubic lice are passed on by close body contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. They cannot jump or fly.
Pubic lice can sometimes be spread by sharing clothing, bedding and towels. Although this is less common as lice can only survive off of the body for around 24-48 hours.
What are the symptoms?
It can take several weeks after coming into contact with pubic lice before signs and symptoms appear.
You might notice:
- Itching and irritation in the affected areas
- Black powdery droppings from the lice in your underwear and bedding
- Tiny insects on body hair
How do you test for it?
There is no routine test available. Pubic lice are diagnosed in clinic by the doctor or nurse looking at your skin.
What is the treatment?
Pubic lice are treated by using a special cream, lotion or shampoo over the whole body.
You will need to wash your clothing, bedding and towels in a washing machine on a very hot cycle (50°C or higher) to kill the lice and avoid re-infection.
The itching may continue for a few days following treatment
Your sexual partner should be treated at the same time even if they don’t have any signs and symptoms.
You do not need to shave off pubic or other body hair.
Find out how to avoid STIs.