Hygiene-related Diseases

Pubic Lice (“Crabs”)

Pubic lice, or Pthirus pubis, are parasitic insects that can be found attached to hair in the pubic area but sometimes are found on coarse hair elsewhere on the body (for example, eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, mustache, chest, armpits, etc.). Pubic lice survive by feeding on human blood and are usually spread through sexual contact.

Good hygiene and other behaviors can help prevent and control the spread of pubic lice:

  • Inform all sexual contacts of the infested person that they should be examined for pubic lice. Treat all those who are infested.
  • Avoid sexual contact between the infested person(s) and their sexual partner(s) until all have been examined, treated as necessary, and reevaluated to rule out persistent infestation.
  • Machine wash and dry clothing worn and bedding used by the infested person in the hot water (at least 130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.
  • Do not share clothing, bedding, and towels used by an infested person.
  • Do not use fumigant sprays or fogs; they are not necessary to control pubic (“crab”) lice and can be toxic if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

For more information on pubic lice, please visit CDC’s pubic lice page.

Page last reviewed: July 26, 2016