Crabs

Menstuff® has compiled information on the issue of crabs.

What are crabs?
How common are crabs?
How can I get crabs?
What are the signs or symptoms of crabs?
How can I find out if I have crabs?
What is the treatment for crabs?
Prevention
Why worry about crabs?
Do I need to talk to my partner about crabs?
Should I talk to my health care provider about crabs?
Resources
Related issues:
Talking With Kids About Tough Issues, AIDS, Bacterial Vaginosis, Blue Balls, Chancroid, Chlamydia, Condoms, Contraception, Crabs, Genital Herpes, Genital Warts, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, Impotency, Nongonococcal Urethritis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Reproduction, STDS, Syphilis, Trichomoniasis, Yeast Infection

 

What are crabs?

Crabs are parasites. Crabs are often referred to as public lice and are not to be confused with body lice. The scientific name for crabs is Pediculus pubis. Crabs need blood to survive, but they can live up to 24 hours off a human body. Crabs have three very distinct phases.

How common are crabs?

In the United States, there are an estimated 3 million cases of crabs every year.

How can I get crabs?

What are the signs or symptoms of crabs?

The most common symptom of crabs is itching in your pubic area. The itching is caused by an allergic reaction to the bites, and usually starts about five days after you get crabs.

If you have crabs and look closely enough in your pubic area, you may see small crab-like parasites that may be whitish-gray or rust colored.

Crab eggs, sometimes called nits, are small and oval-shaped. They are attached to the base of the hair (close to where it comes out of your body).

You may see "blue spots" for several days; these are the result of the bites.

Crabs are usually found in your pubic area; however, you may find them in your armpits, eyelashes, beard/mustache and sometimes in the hair on your head.

How can I find out if I have crabs?

You can usually see the crabs yourself if you look closely enough. You might need a magnifying glass to help you identify them.

If you are uncertain, have a health care provider examine you. He or she may need to use a microscope.

What is the treatment for crabs?

There is a cream rinse, called premethrin, which you apply to the affected area and wash off after 10 minutes.

Another option is lindane (also known as kwell). This is a shampoo that you leave on for four minutes then wash off. If you are a pregnant or a breast-feeding woman, do not use kwell. Do not use kwell on children under the age of 2.

After you are cured, you may still have some itching as a result of a skin irritation or allergic reaction. If so, you can use hydrocortisone cream.

You will also need to wash and dry all your clothes, bed linens, sleeping bags, etc. in hot water (at least 125-degrees F).

Clothes and other items that cannot be washed can be placed in a plastic bag for two weeks.

Prevention

Why worry about crabs?

You may get a secondary infection as a result of scratching.

Do I need to talk to my partner about crabs?

Yes. Telling a partner can be hard. It's important that you talk to your partner as soon as possible so she or he can get treatment. Also, it is possible to pass crabs back and forth. If you get treated and your partner doesn't, you may get infected again. You will need to wash all clothes, sheets, towels, etc. in hot water (at least 125-degrees F).

Should I talk to my health care provider about crabs?

Yes. If you have one sexually transmitted disease, you may be at risk for others. You may want to ask your doctor or nurse about being tested.

Where can I get more information?

If you have additional questions about crabs, call the National STD and AIDS Hotlines at 1-800-342-2437 or 1-800-227-8922. The hotlines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For information in Spanish call 1-800-344-7432, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time, seven days a week. For the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing call 1-800-243-7889, 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. The hotlines provide referrals and more answers to your questions. Source: www.ashastd.org/learn/learn_crabs_facts.cfm

** On 4/11/07 we received the following message from a person by the name of Eddie Wretch who left no contact information. He also didn't back his statement up with any resources saying that our information is completely untrue. He wrote "It is irresponsible for you to state that you could possibly get crabs from a toilet seat, when this is known to be completely untrue! That is on old wives tale and an excuse that has been used by careless people. Please do your research and remove this MISTAKE, there is no way to get crabs from a toilet seat!!!" Our information can be checked with the source for our article (which he apparently didn't bother to do) the American Social Health Association. A call to them at 919.361.8488 Mon-Fri, 9a-6p EST, will varify that it is possible though not probable to get crabs from an infected toilet seat. Crabs can live for 24 hours without access to blood.

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