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What you can do about crab lice

There is a choice of treatment for crab lice (pubic lice). In the UK, you can buy insecticide lotions to kill crab lice from pharmacies, without a prescription. Some contain alcohol, which can irritate the skin of the scrotum and any scratched areas, so a lotion that does not contain alcohol is preferable - check the label for information.

A single application of the lotion is probably enough, but some specialists advise another application after 7 days to eliminate any newly hatched lice. Apply the lotion to the whole body from the neck down, even if you think only the pubic area is affected. A paintbrush is the best method. To be on the safe side, change underclothes and bedlinen after treatment.

Do not treat yourself, but go to a doctor, if:
  • you are pregnant
  • you think you have crabs on your eyelashes or eyebrows; do not try and treat these yourself with lotion.

A survey revealed that 80% of students think that antibiotic creams or tablets will get rid of pubic crab lice (see Useful Contacts). This is completely wrong; antibiotics do not affect lice at all.

What your doctor can do

You can see your family doctor or go to a genitourinary medicine clinic. The advantage of the clinic is that the staff are expert crab spotters who will be able to confirm that your diagnosis is correct. Also, you can have tests to check you have not picked up any other infection at the same time, and the treatment will probably be free.

Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Tuesday, October 4th 2011


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Comments on this article

Posted by johanne on 09/07/2013 at 09:29

i am 21yrz old..i have pubic lice and i dnt knw how i should open up to ma family nd tell them about this..i am realy scared and freak out eveery day of ma life...what shud i doo??

Posted by Optional on 28/03/2012 at 07:03

pls help me. i dont know what to do. i cant tell my wife abt it Help me God i hate myself for doing wrong to my wife that got me i to this situation. HeLP ME!

Posted by Optional on 12/12/2010 at 01:48, United Kingdom

I am a very clean person so having lice has totally freaked me out to say the least, and made me very depressed. I treated it the first time about 6 weeks ago and treated for 2 more treatments to make sure. But i keep finding eggs in my hair as I check thoroughly every night. i have not found any live lice in 6 weeks but keep finding eggs, so not sure what to do. I never feel clean now and wonder if it'll ever go away!!!!


What you can do about crab lice

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Fascinating facts

The French used to call crab lice 'papillons d'amour', which means 'butterflies of love'

Lice have been found on 4000-year-old mummies, and in archaeological remains from Roman and medieval Britain

About 1 in 50 adults probably has pubic lice (Int J Environ Res Pub Health 2009;6:592-600)

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