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Crabs: Not Just At The Beach

Crabs, also known as pubic lice, are one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. Crabs are a good indicator that the person infested with them may carry another type of STD; up to 1/3 of infested individuals according to WebMD however; crabs do not carry HIV between partners. If you find that you have crabs, it is a good idea to consult your doctor so you can be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases. The main risk factors for contracting pubic lice are multiple sexual partners, sexual contact with an infected individual, and sharing clothing, bedding, or sex toys with an infected individual. Condoms are not an effective method of preventing the transmission of crabs.

Crabs are most commonly known to infest the area around the genitals, but can also be found in other regions of the body with hair such as the armpits, or even in eyelashes. They are transmitted mainly through sexual contact, but can also transfer through other ways such as bedding, towels, and toilet seats. This is possible since pubic lice can survive up to 24 hours without being attached to a host. Crabs are not transferred through animal contact as humans are the only known carriers of the parasite. To check for an infestation, use a mirror to check the pubic region for lice or the nits (eggs), at the base of the hair shafts.

The most common symptom of pubic lice is itching. When crabs bite their host, the saliva causes an allergic reaction which may take up to two weeks to become noticeable. Itching may be more intense at night due to the lice being more active then. Although crabs do not cause a rash, lesions may be visible due to scratching and a secondary infection can occur. The bites will also leave small bluish bruise-like marks which can last several months after the crabs have been killed.

To treat for pubic lice in the genital region, it is recommended that a prescription or medicated shampoo be used to thoroughly wash for 5-10 minutes, then rinse well. Next use a fine tooth comb to remove nits. Vinegar may help loosen the nits. It may be necessary to follow up with a second shampoo treatment about a week later if more lice or nits are found. Shaving is not recommended as it may not remove all of the nits. For lice in the eyelashes, do not attempt to use a medicated shampoo. Just pick the nits off with tweezers or your fingernails. It is common to continue to experience itching for 7-10 days even after the crabs are killed due to the build up of saliva in the skin causing irritation. Wash all bedding and clothing in hot water. For non-washable fabrics, leave sealed in plastic bags for two weeks to suffocate the lice and prevent the reproduction of new nits. Any sexual partners within the last 30 days should be notified so they can check for crabs as well. Do not engage in sex until treatment is complete.


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