Pubic lice

  • Alternative Names

    Pediculosis - pubic lice; Lice - pubic; Crabs


    Pubic lice are best treated with a prescription wash containing permethrin, such as Elimite or Kwell:

    • Thoroughly work the shampoo into the pubic hair and surrounding area for at least 5 minutes.
    • Rinse well.
    • Comb the pubic hair with a fine-toothed comb to remove eggs (nits). Applying vinegar to pubic hair before combing may help loosen nits, but the hair should be dry when applying the shampoo.

    A single treatment is all that is usually needed. If another treatment is recommended, it should be done 4 days to 1 week later.

    Over-the-counter medications for the treatment of lice include Rid and Nix. Malathione lotion is another treatment option.

    While you are treating pubic lice, wash all clothing and linens in hot water. Items that cannot be washed may be sprayed with a medicated spray or sealed (suffocated) in plastic bags and not used for 10 - 14 days. It is important for all intimate contacts to be treated at the same time.

    People with pubic lice should be evaluated for other sexually-transmitted infections at the time of diagnosis.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    The proper treatment, including thorough cleaning, should get rid of the lice.


    The constant scratching and digging can cause the skin to become raw, and secondary infections may develop.

    Calling your health care provider

    Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

    • You or your sexual partner has symptoms of pubic lice
    • You try over-the-counter lice treatments and they are not effective
    • Your symptoms continue after treatment