Pubic lice

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

  • They spread through close body contact.
  • Pubic lice are not linked to poor personal hygiene.
  • The lice crawl from hair to hair, but cannot fly or jump.
  • They need human blood to survive.
  • Using condoms and other methods of barrier contraception do not protect you against pubic lice.
  • It is also possible for pubic lice to be spread through sharing clothes, towels and bedding.
  • Pubic lice will not cause any long term health problems.


It can take several weeks before symptoms appear. Some people don't have any symptoms, or may not notice them.

Symptoms include:

  • itching in the affected areas, which may be intense
  • inflammation and irritation in the affected areas caused by scratching
  • black powder in your underwear
  • blue-coloured spots on your skin where the lice are living, such as on your thighs or lower abdomen (these are caused by lice bites)
  • small spots of blood on your skin that are also caused by lice bites

Getting tested

Pubic lice can be diagnosed with a simple examination, sometimes using a magnifying glass to look for:

  • yellow-grey or dusky red-coloured lice
  • brown lice eggs or empty white eggshells (nits)

How are pubic lice treated?

Pubic lice can be treated with insecticide cream, lotion or shampoo. It will usually need to be applied once and repeated after three to seven days.

Protecting yourself and others

Until you are clear of pubic lice avoid:

  • close bodily contact;
  • having sex; and
  • sharing clothes, towels and bedding.

Do you have symptoms or want to be tested?

If you have symptoms you should get yourself tested to avoid infection developing and from transferring it to someone else.

Call 0300 008 5522 to book an appointment at one of our clinics.

Find your nearest clinic

For more information on pubic lice visit ...

NHS Choices logo


FPA logo test