The Truth About Crabs (AKA Pubic Lice)


What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word crabs? Maybe it’s Sebastian, the talking crab from the Little Mermaid – the best part of the movie as far as we’re concerned. Or maybe, and much more likely, your mind immediately goes to STDs. You’ve heard of crabs. We’ve all heard of crabs. But do you know what it is? How you get it? And how you know if you have it? If the answer is no, that’s where we come in.

At besafemeds, we believe that the only way to properly protect yourself from STIs is to have all the facts. That’s why we educate you on every type of STD – even the ones you really don’t want to think about – like crabs. The truth is, 3 million people in the U.S. contract crabs each year. Read below for answers to the questions we most commonly see about the crabs STD.

7 Common Questions About Crabs

Are Crabs an STD?

Yes. Crabs aka Pediculus pubis (pubic lice) are parasitic insects that feed on human blood. Pubic lice are most commonly found in pubic hair, hence the name. However, they can also be found in body hair that is particularly coarse, such as beards, armpit hair, chest hair, and eyebrows. Crabs should not be confused with head lice. Crabs typically will not be found on the head.

How Do You Get the STD Crabs?

Crabs is spread through sexual contact. And unfortunately, crabs is hard to protect against – even if you use condoms. This is because they thrive outside of the body, not inside of it. A common myth about crabs is that you can get it from a toilet seat. This is extremely rare and nearly impossible. It is also possible to contract crabs through contact with infested clothing, sheets, or towels.

What Do Crabs Look Like?

They actually look just like what you’re picturing! Tiny crabs– complete with six legs and all! They are tan or white-gray in color. Pubic lice has three different stages – nits, nymphs, and adults. When they are nits, they are eggs, and after 6-10 days, they hatch into nymphs. After 2-3 weeks, they become adults. The more blood they take in, the bigger they grow.

Can You See Crabs?

Typically, no. However, once they reach the adult stage and are fully grown, they can get up to 2 millimeters in size and may be seen without the use of a magnifying glass.

Can You Get Crabs If You Have No Pubic Hair?

Yes, you can. Although crabs are typically found in pubic hair, they can also be found in other body hair (mentioned above).

How Do You Know If You Have Crabs?

Symptoms of crabs typically begin around 5 days after infection. Symptoms related to crabs include:

  • Itching around your genital area
  • Skin irritation
  • Little oval shaped eggs that may be seen at the very base of the hair
  • Blue spots on your skin. These are marks from bites

How Do You Treat Crabs?

The following instructions are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Wash the area that is infested and towel dry.
  • Purchase an over-the-counter lice-killing lotion or mousse, or pick up a prescription lotion prescribed to you by your doctor.
  • Carefully follow the instructions and thoroughly saturate pubic hair and other infested areas with lice medication. After you wait the amount of time indicated on the box, remove the medication.
  • You’ll most likely still find nits attached to your hair. You can remove them with your fingernails or a fine-toothed comb.
  • To kill pubic lice that is still on your clothing, towels, or bedding, machine wash and dry them using hot water and a hot dryer cycle 2-3 days before treatment.
  • Be sure to inform all partners you’ve had sex with within the last month that they are at risk for contracting crabs and should be treated.
  • Avoid sexual contact of any kind until both you and your partner(s) are treated and infestation is completely gone.
  • If you find living pubic lice after treatment, repeat the treatment process 9-10 days later.

Now that you know all there is to know about crabs, you can take steps to protect yourself. The only real way to avoid crabs completely is to abstain from sexual activity of any kind with someone who has crabs. Oftentimes this can be difficult because your partner may not know they have crabs yet. However, being open and honest about your sexual history, any recent partners you’ve had, and any risk for potential STDs can go a long way in avoiding contracting crabs – or any STD for that matter.

As always, if you’re worried you may have an STD, besafemeds can help! We’re here in those times of embarrassment when you don’t know where else to turn. We provide private online STD treatment in a discreet and efficient manner. Simply click on Treat My STD button to fill out our diagnostic form. Then, a licensed nurse practitioner or doctor will call you to discuss your symptoms and give a diagnosis. Give yourself peace of mind by contacting us today!

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