Pubic Lice

What are pubic lice?
Pubic lice are microscopic insects that attach to human hair and are transmitted through close contact.

Adult pubic lice are about 2mm long in length and looks like a crab. Usually they are seen by a magnifying glass. They're a yellow-grey or dusky red colour and have 6 legs. Pubic lice typically are found attached to hair in the pubic area but sometimes they are also found in other body parts such as eyebrow, eyelashes, beard, moustache, chest and armpits. The lice lay their eggs in sacs firmly stuck to hairs. When the eggs hatch, the empty eggs are white.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can appear after several weeks. Public lice can cause the same symptoms for both women and men.

Symptoms include:

  • Severe itching in the affected area, especially at night.
  • Inflammation and irritation caused by scratching.
  • Black powder under the underwear.
  • Blue spots or small spots of blood on the skin (e.g. thighs and lower abdomen) – caused by lice bites.

N.B. Most itching happens during night time because that's when the lice are usually active. Itching is the most common symptoms of pubic lice and is an allergic reaction to their saliva.

How pubic lice can be prevented?
Condoms and other methods of barrier contraception doesn't protect against pubic lice. The lice crawl from hair to hair and lives on human blood. Therefore, the lice can only leave the body to move from one person to another.

The most common way pubic lice are spread is through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Hugging and kissing can also cause transmission. In rare cases, pubic lice are spread through sharing clothes, towels and bedding.

How it is treated?
It is treated by applying a special type of shampoo or cream to hair, and this should be repeated after 3 to 7 days. People who have been in close contact with the infected person, such as household members and sexual partners should also be treated.

Washing clothes, towels and bedding
All clothes, towels and bedding sheets are to be washed in a washing machine with a hot cycle (50C or higher). Hot temperatures kill the lice and prevent reinfection.

Further information and help

  • If you have pubic lice, you should also be tested for other STIs.
  • The lice does not transmit HIV or STIs.
  • Talk to your doctor about other STIs. However, a check-up is recommended. STIs can be transmitted during sexual contact.
  • Call GU Clinic on 25457494/1 for an appointment.