Dear Suzie, i have CRABS!!

That’s sad to hear. Are you sure, though? Crabs, or to give them their proper name, pubic lice are yellow-grey in colour, measure about 2mm long and have large, crab-like claws with which they fasten themselves to hair. They’re usually found in the hair round your genitals but you can also find them in underarm hair, on hairy legs and chests and sometimes in beards, eyebrows and eyelashes.

Crabs are one of the few sexually transmitted conditions you don’t have to have full sex to catch or pass on. But you do need to get up close and personal – they crawl from hair to hair; they don’t fly or jump. But since the eggs of the lice can survive away from the body for up to 24 hours, so it’s possible for them to be passed on by sharing clothes, bedding or towels. However, you can’t catch pubic lice from sharing cups, plates or cutlery, or from toilet seats or swimming pools.

If you have crabs you’ll have noticed itchy or reddened skin and you may have seen other signs such as brown eggs on your hair, lice droppings in underwear (they look like black powder) and sometimes spots of blood. Sometimes you can actually see the lice or their eggs.

A doctor can easily find out if it is pubic lice by asking you some questions, and or by giving you an examination. The good news is lice are easily treated. Special shampoos, creams or lotions are used to kill them and their eggs – you don’t need to shave BTW!
The itching or rash may continue after treatment and take a few weeks to clear up. A soothing lotion may help with this.

Pubic lice don’t cause any serious long-term health problems. But, to avoid re-infection, all your clothes and bedding should also be washed and any sexual partners should be treated too. You’ll have to avoid sex and all close contact until treatment has been completed and the lice and their eggs have gone.

You can get lotions and treatments from your pharmacist but I’d strongly advise seeing a doctor. This is because if you’ve caught this from sex, you may have other sexual infections too, and you’ll appreciate the help offered to contact the person who gave this to you and stop it being passed on further. You can talk to your GP or go to a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic. These clinics diagnose and treat all STIs for free. They’re completely confidential and your GP won’t be informed without your say-so. You can go to any clinic in the country for advice or treatment.

To find a GUM clinic:
• look in your local phone directory or search the internet under genitourinary medicine (GUM), sexually transmitted disease (STD) or venereal disease (VD)
• call fpa’s helpline on 0845 310 1334 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm) or visit
• call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or, if you live in Scotland, NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24 (both lines open 24 hrs)

In future, if you’ve caught this non sexually, be more careful with the items you let come into contact with you. If you got it from intimate contact, use a condom and practise safe sex! Good luck!

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