What you need to know about crabs

Sexual Health

What is crabs?

Crabs is also known as public lice or Pediculus Pubis. Each year millions of people get infected through sexual contact by these small, tan or whitish-grey parasites called Pthirus pubis that look like tiny versions of beach crabs.

How do you get them?

They attach themselves to the hair and skin around the genital areas, and feed off human blood. They might also be found on other types of coarse hair, such as eyebrows, armpits, beards, chest hair or mustache. It should be mentioned that even if there is no sexual penetration, you can still be infected or transmit crabs to someone else. That is since they need contact with the infested pubic area or new course hair to infect. That means that, although sex safe practices of using condoms are advisable to stop the transmission of HIV, they offer no barrier against being infected by crabs.

Should also be mentioned that they are not a solely sexually transmitted problem, as they can be transferred to another people through nonsexual transmission if the other person is in contact with the infected person’s towels, bedding, or clothes. Plus, they can’t be transmitted with casual touching like hugs or handshakes. In fact, crabs can’t live longer than 24 hours if they are away from the human body and they can’t cling to smooth surfaces. And just as head lice don’t spread to the pubic area, these pubic lice don’t spread to the head.

Sexual Health

How do you know you have crabs?

The symptoms include intense itching, due to the crab’s bites. The crabs or crab eggs, called nits, in your pubic hair might also be spotted. There is normally dark or bluish spots on the skin where pubic lice are living. The eye might be inflamed if your eyelashes has been infected. You might have brown spots on your underwear.

Other symptoms include feeling run down, irritable or feverish. Eyes’ inflammation in case you have your eyelashes infected. Or brown spots on underwear.

What is the complications and the treatment?

They aren’t dangerous, but if crabs disease has been diagnosed, patients need completing STD treatment course which involves insecticide creams and lotions which help to terminate the lice. These are effective to get rid of the crabs.

Normally no doctor’s prescription, but with just the use of over the counter medicines. These treatments are easy to use and come in shampoos, foams and gels. All that needs to be done is to follow the instructions carefully. A repeat application might be needed. Even if treatment for crabs is successful, you may still have some itching as a result of a skin irritation or allergic reaction. If so, you can use hydrocortisone cream to help stop the itching.

But it is important that if one partner has it, both should be treated to avoid cross contamination. Also, all bedding, towels, and clothes should be properly washed on the hottest setting. Then dry on them on the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes. You can also put fabrics that can’t be washed in a sealed bag for 2 weeks, until the crabs and their eggs die out. You can also vacuum rugs and furniture. You don’t need to call an exterminator or fumigate your home.

Home remedies like shaving or hot baths don’t work. Treatments that soothe itching, such as hydrocortisone cream will relieve the itching, but they won’t cure your pubic lice.

If the infect areas are other than the pubic area, such as eye brows and eyelashes, then you will need a special, doctor’s prescription treatment.

If a person is breastfeeding or pregnant they will need to consult their doctor before using any treatment.

Occasionally, secondary bacterial infections may occur due to aggressive scratching.

What treatment is available?

All people can apply malathion lotion without any exceptions, but Permethrin is not recommended for patients under 18. But you need to treat your whole body, not just the infected area. And the lotion or cream should stay on your body for the recommended time according to prescription.

When it is over, you need to wash the lotion off thoroughly. There is no need to shave infected areas which are covered with hair.

Do try to avoid getting lotion on your eyelashes or into eyes. If this area is infected you need to consult the doctor on the most appropriate treatment course for these parts of the body. It is advisable to inform all your sexual partners that you have been in contact with in the past month they might have crabs. And avoid sexual intimacy until you have completed the treatment successfully.

After treatment, all the nits that might be stuck to the pubic hear, needs to be removed with a fine toothed comb.