Crab lice

Don't be ignorant about this disease
Image by Nicki Varkevisser CC BY 2.0 Cropped

Risk - any sex with another

Often there are no symptoms

Street names

crabs, crotch crickets, pubic lice

Facts about crab lice

Crab lice

The pubic louse (plural: lice):

  • May look like a tiny scab on skin or in pubic hairs.
  • Caused by the louse named Pediculosis pubis.
  • Symptoms (itching) appear about 5 days after exposed - itching in pubic and groin area is due to a reaction to bites of the louse that is sucking blood from your skin. Blue spots occur on the skin where the lice bites you.
  • The female louse lays eggs and glues them to your pubic hair. Eggs hatch within 5-10 days.

How it spreads

  • Sexual activity with another person can allow the lice to move to your body and make a home there.
  • Crab lice do not feed regularly and can live up to 24 hours away from a human host…like on a towel, a hat, or in clothing.
  • If you have a friend infected with crab lice and you use their clothing or towels, you may also become infested.
  • Animals do not get or spread pubic lice.
  • Head lice are different to crab lice.


Crab louse

Crab louse. Note the crab-like claws that can grasp hairs to allow the louse to move up (to lay eggs) and down hair (to bite and feed).

Crab lice eggs

Crab lice lay eggs and glue them to hair. These eggs are called 'nits' and are difficult to remove. You may need a magnifying glass to see them.


There are a number of medications, both prescription and non-prescription creams, that can be used to kill the lice. Ask your doctor. You will also have to wash or dry clean all your clothes, bed linens, and towels to ensure complete removal. Dead nits and lice can be removed from your pubic hair and even eyebrows with a special fine-toothed comb.


  • Choose not to have sex - condoms offer no protection.
  • Don't share other people's clothing or towel

Individual help

If you have further questions or concerns about STDs, ask Dr. Mike, an internationally known Clinical Microbiologist specializing in STDs. He has worked extensively with teenage boys and contributed all the information and STD images on the disease pages here.

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