November 22nd, 2010 | Published in Crabs Information
Crabs, or pubic lice, affect approximately 3 million people in the United States each year. These crab-like parasites feed off human blood and attach themselves primarily to pubic hair. They can sometimes be found in other areas of the body with coarse hair such as armpits, eyelashes, eyebrows, facial hair, or chest hair. Crabs are similar to head and body lice, but they are not the same thing.
Crabs have three distinct phases. The first stage is the egg or nit. Nits can be found at the base of the hair and are small, oval-shaped, and pearl-like in color. The second phase is the nymph, or immature form of the adult. The third phase is the adult crab. This stage causes the most common symptom, itching, and usually occurs about five days after exposure.
Crabs are visible to when looking closely or using a magnifying glass. They resemble the crabs found on the beach and are either whitish-gray or rust colored. Dark or bluish spots can appear as a result of the bites.
Crabs are most frequently sexually transmitted, but can still be passed without sexual penetration. Since transferred from the pubic hair or one person to another, condoms do not protect against crabs. Crabs require blood to survive, but they can live up to 24 hours off a human body making nonsexual transmission possible. A person can contract crabs by sleeping in an infested bed, using infested towels, or wearing infested clothing. It is possible, but very rare, to acquire crabs through an infested toilet seat.
Fortunately, crabs are easily treated. There are several creams and shampoos available over-the-counter or with a prescription. After treatment, nits or eggs will remain attached to the hair and they can be removed with a fine tooth comb or fingernails. Clothing and bedding may still be infested so it is important to wash any articles that may have been infested in hot water and dried on high heat. Item that cannot be washed should be dry cleaned or placed in a plastic bag for two weeks.
While crabs cause discomfort and itching, they do not pose any serious health risks.
source: American Social Health Association; ashastd.org