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Pubic lice

Pubic lice (phthirus pubis) are tiny parasitic insects that live on coarse human body hair, such as pubic hair.


  • Itching in the affected area
  • Black powder in your underwear
  • Brown eggs on pubic or other body hair
  • Irritation and inflammation in the affected area
  • Sky blue spots or tiny specks of blood on the skin

Pubic lice are passed on through sex and other close body contact. It’s also possible, though much rarer, for pubic lice to be spread through sharing clothes, towels and bedding.

Adult pubic lice are very small (2mm long) and aren’t easy to see. They’re a yellow-grey or dusky red colour and have six legs. Pubic lice are sometimes known as crabs because they have two large front legs that look like the claws of a crab. These are used to hold onto the base of hairs.

Download our patient leaflet for more information.