WHAT ARE THEY?
Pubic lice are tiny crab-like insects that live in pubic hair or other coarse body hair. They can also be found in chest, armpit, and facial hair, as well as eyebrows and eyelashes. The adult insects bite and feed on the blood of the host and lay small eggs, called nits, which attach to the hair shaft.
HOW WOULD I GET THEM?
Public lice are typically passed through intimate sexual and non-sexual contact. However, pubic lice can live for 1 to 2 days in the bedding, towels, and clothes of an infected individual, so these items may become a source of transmission. These insects can only survive for 24-48 hours off the body and are not designed to walk on or hold on to smooth surfaces, so it is unlikely that you would get them from something like a toilet seat.
HOW WOULD I KNOW I HAD THEM?
The most common symptom of pubic lice is severe and constant itching in pubic area, skin irritation and redness. This usually develops within 5 days of infection. An infected individual may also develop blue spots where they were bitten, or find tiny black particles (lice feces) in their underwear.
A doctor can usually diagnose pubic lice from a visual inspection. They may also send a skin sample to the lab for confirmation of infection.
CAN THEY BE TREATED AND CURED?
Yes. A pubic lice infection is treated through special lotions and shampoos that are available from the pharmacy. It is also very important that a person infected with pubic lice cleans anything that might have lice on it, such as clothes, bedding, and towels. These items should be washed in hot water (50° Celsius/122° Fahrenheit, or higher), dry cleaned, or bagged for three days to a week. Items that cannot be washed or bagged should be vacuumed.
All sexual partners who have had contact with the infected person in the month before the diagnosis should be treated to help prevent re-infestation. The itchiness can persist for weeks after successful therapy. Antihistamines (anti-itch medication) and mild steroid creams may be used to control this. Special consideration is given to infestations in the eyes. If the first treatment does not work it can be repeated after one week.
IF THEY AREN’T TREATED, CAN THEY LEAD TO MORE SERIOUS PROBLEMS?
Persistent scratching of irritated skin can cause a secondary bacterial infection.
PREVENTING PUBIC LICE
Condoms do not protect against pubic lice, because they are spread simply by close contact. Your best protection is to get regular STI tests.
HOW TO BOOK AND PREPARE YOURSELF FOR AN APPOINTMENT
Booking an appointment with us is easy! Give us a call at 902.455.9656 ext. 0. You will be speaking with either a volunteer or a medical administrator. We cannot book appointments over email or Facebook. You cannot book an appointment for someone else, even if they are your partner or child. We will need to speak with them directly. To book, we will need your full name, birth date, phone number, and a very brief reason for your visit. That’s it! The person on the phone will outline anything you need to know to prepare for your appointment. Our average wait time for an appointment is 4-6 weeks from the day you call.
Make sure you bring your valid provincial health card with you to your appointment. Clients without health cards are subject to doctors and lab fees.
Are you a youth? You do not need parental consent for any of our appointments.
Don’t have access to or lost your health card? You are entitled to your health card information! Call MSI toll-free at 1-800-563-8880 (in Nova Scotia) or at 902-496-7008 from Monday-Friday 8am-5pm. We require the number and the expiry date. Another tip: take a picture of your card! You will never lose it again!
Oral, vaginal, and anal STI tests have no preparation.