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MORRISTOWN, N.J. -- With 3 million new cases of pubic lice each year and the majority occurring in young people, this highly contagious sexually transmitted disease (STD) impacts college students across the country. Commonly referred to as "crabs," many students will be hit below the belt with this itchy STD when they return from school break.
Movies and popular televisions shows, like HBO's "Sex and the City," are beginning to broach pubic lice through humor and wit while pulling back the curtain on this itchy private predicament. This comic relief helps shed a new light on pubic lice and STDs, which are often associated with negative stigmas and embarrassment.
There is a quick and easy solution for college students who are hit with a case of crabs. Recent Center for Disease Control guidelines include over-the-counter treatment as a first line approach. A visit to the campus health center may also be appropriate to discuss symptoms, treatment and prevention of future outbreaks.
Pubic lice look like miniature crabs and are found primarily in the genital areas of both men and women. Since crabs typically are spread through sexual contact, meaning skin-to-skin exposure, and are highly contagious, students should immediately tell their partners if they have an outbreak. Students who get crabs or find themselves at risk should also consider getting checked for other STDs. A recent study found pubic lice to be predictive of other, more silent sexual health concerns, such as chlamydia.
"With sexual activity common on college campuses, it is critical that students educate themselves about the potential consequences of risky sexual behavior, how to better protect themselves from STDs, and what to do if they get one," says Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, director of adolescent outpatient services at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center. "Crabs should be taken care of immediately by using a simple over-the-counter treatment, which will reliably cure the lice outbreak."
THE LOW-DOWN ON PUBIC LICE:
How and where do you get crabs?
* The No. 1 way to get crabs is through sexual contact. Lice cannot
survive for long when away from a warm human body. However, it is
possible to contract crabs through contact with an infested person's
bed linens, towels, or clothes. It is highly unlikely, but
theoretically possible, to get crabs from a toilet seat.
* Lice are equal opportunity pests. If your partner has crabs, you are at greater risk
of contracting them yourself.
How to know if you have crabs?
* The most common symptom of pubic lice is extreme itching in the genital
* Although crabs are typically found in the genital area, they can also
be found in eyelashes, eyebrows and other facial hair.
* Pubic lice are slightly larger than sesame seeds and resemble miniature
crabs. They are tan to grayish-white in color and can be found by
closely examining the genital area under a bright light.
How is it treated?
There are three key steps to getting rid of crabs: treat, remove and
* Treat crabs by using a pyrethrum-based lice shampoo with piperonyl
butoxide. Follow directions carefully.
* Remove any dead lice or eggs carefully according to directions.
* Clean the infested area thoroughly. Be sure to wash clothing, bedding
and towels in hot water and dry in high heat for 20 minutes to prevent
another outbreak or spread of pubic lice.
* You may want to consider using a topical hydrocortisone product to
sooth the itching.
Where can I get more information?
* For information about crabs or other STDs contact the National STD &
AIDS Hotline at 1-800-227-8922.
* For additional information about pubic lice treatment or products, you
may call 1-800-RID-LICE (1-800-743-5423) or visit
Source: Bayer Healthcare