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First Aid & Emergencies

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Crabs (Pubic Lice) Treatment

1. Remove Pubic Lice and Eggs

  • Use an over-the-counter lotion or anti-lice shampoo. Follow instructions on the label.
  • The shampoo will kill the lice, but eggs – nits – may remain on hair shafts. After treatment, remove nits with fingernails, tweezers, or a fine-toothed comb. A mirror, magnifying glass, and a bright light may help.

2. Stop the Spread

  • Check other family members for crabs. Anyone who sleeps in the same bed as the person should be treated, even if no pubic lice are found.
  • Wash clothes, bedding, or towels used by the person in the two days before treatment. Use hot water.
  • Dry-clean or store Items that can't be washed in a plastic bag for 2 weeks.

3. Follow Up

  • Treatment may need to be repeated 9 to 10 days later.
  • Avoid sexual contact until the person and sexual partners have been treated and re-evaluated.

4. See a Health Care Provider

  • If a second round of over-the-counter treatment isn't effective
  • If the person develops an infection from scratching the affected area
  • If fingers or combs aren't enough to remove lice or nits in eyebrows and eyelashes. A health care provider can prescribe ophthalmic grade petroleum jelly.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on November 20, 2013

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