pubic lice

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Crab louse

Crabs on eyelashes

Scabbed bite marks
Extensive lice

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What are they?

Crab lice are small insects which live in coarse body hair. This means they can be found not only in pubic hair but also in underarm hair, on hairy legs and chests. Very rarely would they be found on the scalp. They have been known to exist in beards and eyelashes. It is difficult to see them as they are skin coloured and stay still in light. They reach 2mm in length and have large claws which make them look like crabs. They glue their eggs to the hair close to the skin.

How do you spot them?

It may be 2-3 weeks before they cause the skin to itch. The first sign may be a black powder in the underwear. This is their `droppings` (faeces). They live by sucking blood and therefore sometimes minute specks of blood may be seen. `Nits` are the hatched eggs and appear as white dots fixed to the hair.

How do you get them?

It is possible though very unlikely that they could be caught from toilet seats. They don’t fly or jump. Sexual contact is the most common way they are spread though it is possible for them to transfer to another person with other types of body contact. It is occasionally possible for them to be spread by clothing or bedding, which should be washed before further use.

Can they be got rid of?

Yes, quite easily. Creams, lotions and shampoos exist which kill off both the `crabs` and their eggs. Normally you will be asked to apply a liquid to the whole surface of skin especially the hairy areas. It is best to leave this on for 12 hours i.e. overnight before washing it off. The lotion has no colour or smell. If sufficient remains to repeat then this should be done one week later. Shampoos need to be used differently. It is important to follow the instructions on the pack or as given by the doctor, nurse or health adviser. The itching may still go on for a further week or so.

Anything else?

Yes. It is vital that any sexual contacts are treated otherwise they will too easily return. It may be also necessary to inform recent previous sexual partners of their need to have a check up.

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