What is scabies and pubic lice?
Scabies is a skin condition caused by tiny mites that are very difficult to see with the naked eye. The scabies mite burrows into the skin with its mouth and front legs so that it can lay its eggs.
More rarely, scabies can become severe with many more mites on the skin. This is called crusted scabies, and it mainly occurs in older people and those with particular illnesses such as HIV.
Pubic lice are small parasitic creatures that live in pubic hair and other coarse body hair. They don’t live in the hair on your head. These body lice are also known as crab lice since they resemble crabs in appearance. Pubic crabs are only 2mm long and a yellow-grey colour. The eggs look like brown dots and can be found attached to strands of hair.
What are the symptoms of scabies and pubic lice?
The two main scabies symptoms are intense itching and a rash and they only appear 8 weeks after infection. Scabies mites prefer warm places such as folds in the skin and the creases between the buttocks and under the breasts, so this is where you may find a scabies rash.
Pubic lice symptoms can also take weeks to appear after infection. Itching is the most common symptom and is caused by a reaction to the saliva of the lice. Other crabs symptoms include irritation caused by scratching, black powder in your underwear, and small spots of blood from bites on the lower abdomen and upper thighs.
How do you catch scabies and pubic lice?
Prolonged skin-to-skin contact or sexual contact with an infected person is commonly what causes scabies. Although rare, it’s also possible to spread scabies through sharing clothing, towels and bedding.
Genital crabs are generally passed on through close contact with an infected person and they are in no way related to how good or bad someone’s personal hygiene is. They can’t jump or fly, so the only way they can move is by crawling from one person to another. They are commonly spread by sexual contact, and can’t be prevented by using condoms.
How can you treat pubic lice and scabies?
Pubic lice and scabies aren’t serious conditions but they should be treated to prevent them spreading. It’s important to follow the application instructions for your treatment as some are just applied to the infected area whereas some are used to treat the entire body.
There are two commonly used treatments which work for both conditions. The first crab lice and scabies treatment is a permethrin 5% cream like Lyclear. The second scabies and pubic lice treatment is a malathion 0.5% lotion such as Derbac M liquid.
To prevent either condition recurring, it’s important that any sexual partners are treated too. You should also avoid close physical contact with anyone until you’ve completed your course of treatment.
What can you do to help prevent pubic lice and scabies?
The easiest way to prevent pubic lice and scabies is to avoid close physical contact with infected people. To be extra safe, you should also avoid sharing clothing, bedding or towels with an infected person.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does scabies look like?
Scabies mites are tiny and very difficult to see with the naked eye. You’re more likely to see the scabies rash caused by the mites burrowing into your skin.
What are crabs?
Crabs is another name for pubic lice. Read more about this above.
How do you get scabies?
Scabies is spread through prolonged physical contact. It can also be spread through sharing clothes, towels and bedding with an infected person, but this is much more rare. Read more above.
How long does scabies last?
Scabies will disappear with treatment. If you treat with Lyclear, usually one application is sufficient. With Derbac two applications are necessary.