How are pubic lice treated?

Crabs are treated by washing the infested area with a special shampoo. Shampoos that kill lice (such as RID [pyrethrin] and A-200) are available without a prescription. Follow the directions on the bottle, but for crabs. Do not use the shampoo on your scalp; use it on your pubic hair instead. It is important to check for lice in the hair under the arm, and other hairy areas of the body including eyelashes. The treatment is applied to all areas of suspected involvement, which includes the area near the rectum, thighs, trunk (lower abdomen/buttocks), and under arms. You must also wash your clothes, bed linens and towels in the hot cycles of your washer and dryer (the heat kills the insects). It is not necessary to spray your clothes or household objects with an insecticide. After treatment it is important to abstain from sexual intercourse until it is clear that the infection is resolved, ideally at least 2 weeks. Treatment needs to be repeated in 9 to 10 days if the lice remain.

You should contact your doctor about the best way to treat lice in your eyelashes, which is treated differently than the lice in the pubic or underarm area. Prescription topical and oral treatments are also available from your doctor.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/11/2014.


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pubic lice Accessed 12/11/2014.
  • Bachmann L. Chapter 30. Commonly Encountered Genital Dermatoses. In: Klausner JD, Hook EW, III. eds. CURRENT Diagnosis & Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2007.
  • American Sexual Health Association. Crabs Accessed 12/11/2014.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy