Crabs? Couldn't be. When it comes to life's little embarrassments, a little denial can go a long way. A simple problem with a simple solution can become a mini-epidemic of pretty nasty proportions. Sure, the idea of some little critters frolicking in your pubic jungle, digging in for a drink of blood now and then, isn't exactly something to put on a resume, but it's nothing to be ashamed of. And the longer you ignore the problem, the more unnecessary discomfort you'll have to endure.
While crabs, known to the stethoscope set as Phthirus pubis, differ slightly from the species of lice that inhabit other parts of the body, they are, for all intents and purposes, very similar and are treated in exactly the same way. Says Michael Burnhill, M.D., the medical director of Planned Parenthood in New York City, NY, "Head lice, crabs -- it's all the same thing: you shampoo, you wash your clothes, you're done."
In cramped, communal living situations such as college dorms, shared summer rentals, or spring break hotel rooms, the crab population can rival that of the Chesapeake Bay. In these settings, eliminating crabs for good can be a real challenge.
According to Burnhill, pubic lice are almost invariably transmitted from person to person during sexual activity, but when infested pubic hair detaches, lice can hatch on underwear, on towels, in beds, on toilets -- anywhere that comes face to face with your special place. As long as the temperature is 50 degrees or higher, a borrowed towel or a nap in a neighbor's bed could leave you itching.
Step one is to admit the problem -- the sooner the better. That itch could very well be something else, but at least face the possibility of crabs. Diagnosis is a no-brainer if you spot the little crawly guys in your pubes. Complicating the process for do-it-yourselfers, full-grown crabs are about half the size of head lice, lay fewer eggs, and are light colored; therefore, can be relatively hard to detect. Also look for "nits," which are eggs firmly attached to the hair shafts, as well as red bite marks or hives in the genital area. You might also notice some strange spots in your underwear.