Pediculosis (pubic lice)
What is it?
It is a parasite insect that lives in pubic hair. Then it lays eggs there. It is also called crabs or pubic lice. Lice to do not fly or jump. They are spread by direct contact. They may also be found in:
- Facial hair
- Chest hair
- Armpit hair
It does not live on scalp hair (That is a different type of lice).
How is it spread?
It is most often spread during sexual contact with a person who has it. It is very rarely spread by objects, such as:
- Toilet seats
- Clothing (bathing suits you may try on at a store)
Adult lice can live up to 10 days. Eggs (nits) can live up to 1 month in clothing or bedding.
What are symptoms?
The main symptom is itching that gets worse at night. You may also see:
- Grey-blue or slate colored spots on the skin where the lice feed
- Sores in the infected site caused by the bites and scratching
- The lice
How do I prevent it?
Do not have sexual contact with people who have pubic lice until they are treated.
Do not share:
- Bed sheets
- Sleeping bags
Wear your underwear if you are trying on bathing suits in a store.
Do not scratch the site if you think you have lice. You may carry lice to other parts of your body covered by hair.
How is it diagnosed?
Small, adult lice can be seen by the naked eye. They attach to pubic hair, are gray-brown, and move.
Nits (eggs) attach to the base of the pubic hair. They are small, oval, and gray. A magnifying glass may be used to see the nits or lice. Some may be removed with tweezers and seen under a microscope in a doctor’s office.
How is it treated?
You and your partner(s) should be treated at the same time. You will use a lice shampoo or lotion that has Permethrin or Pyrethrin. There are over-the-counter and prescription treatments. Use the medicine as ordered. You may have to repeat the treatment in 9 to 10 days, or as directed. Do not use medicines with Lindane (Kwell®) if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
After you treated the lice, the nits may be removed with a fine-tooth comb.
A provider often has to use another treatment if lice are in your eyelashes or eyebrows.
Clothing and linen should be washed in hot water. Dry them in a hot dryer. This should be done at the same time you are treated. Clothing you are not able to wash and dry can be sealed in plastic bags for 14 days. Vacuum furniture and carpets.
When do I have a follow-up visit?
A follow-up visit is not needed. Make an appointment if the lice do not go away or they come back.
- The obstetrics Gynecology Clinic at 319-356-2294 Monday through Friday from 8 A.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- For urgent questions or concerns:
- Call toll-free at 800-777-8442, 24 hours a day
- Ask for the gynecology resident on call
- You may be asked some questions when using the toll-free number
Send a MyChart message for non-urgent questions or concerns.