What is it?

Crabs (Phthirus pubis) are tiny mites that live on the skin at the base of pubic hair. Crabs lay eggs that are attached to the hairs and are usually seen in the pubic area. Crabs can also be found in beards, armpits, chest hair and eyelashes.

How do you get it?

Crabs are passed on through close skin-to-skin contact and sharing clothes, bed sheets or towels.

What are the symptoms or signs?

Crabs can cause an intense itching in the pubic regions. This may take between three days and several weeks to occur. Close examination of the pubic hair should find tiny brown lice and/or white eggs, called nits, attached to the pubic hair.


No test is required. You can usually identify crabs by self-examination.

How is it treated?

You can treat crabs yourself with appropriate genital lice shampoos and creams available at pharmacies. At the time of treatment wash all your bed linen, towels and clothing in warm, soapy water. Sexual partners and anyone in close physical contact should also be treated. It is advisable to repeat the treatment after seven days. Shaving pubic and other body hair is not necessary.

How can it be prevented?

There’s no way to prevent the initial outbreak of crabs. To prevent crabs from recurring after an outbreak, wash everything that may have come into contact with the lice in warm soapy water including bed linen, clothes, towels and underwear

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