Island Sexual Health Society Be informed, not surprised!

three young men standing by a fence talking about crabs and scabies

Crabs and scabies can be spread by close contact or sharing personal items, not only by sexual activity.

Crabs (pubic lice) and scabies

Crabs are tiny lice that live in pubic hair or other coarse body hair. Scabies are tiny mites that burrow under the skin of the hands or genital area to lay eggs. Both types of parasitic insect can be easily spread to another person.

Make an appointment at any of our clinics in Greater Victoria to have a healthcare provider check you for crabs and scabies, or to find out more.

More information from BCCDC on crabs and scabies

How crabs and scabies are spread

  • from close physical contact such as sexual activity, however they are not only sexually transmitted
  • you can also get them from sharing towels, bedding or clothing with an infected person
  • these insects can only survive for 24-48 hours off the body (their host) so it is unlikely that you would get them from a toilet seat

Preventing crabs and scabies

Condoms do not protect against crabs and scabies, because they are spread simply by close contact. Your best protection is to limit your sexual partners, and get regular STI testing.

Crabs and scabies symptoms

Scabies causes a rash with red, scratch-like lines or small bumps on the genitals or other parts of your body such as the hands and wrists. They cause intense itching which is worse at night.

Pubic lice (crabs) also causes itchiness which is often worse at night. Sometimes you can see the eggs (nits) at the base of the hair. It is possible to be infected with pubic lice and not have any symptoms.

Risks of untreated crabs and scabies

There are no serious complications or long term effects associated with pubic lice or scabies.

Crabs and scabies tests and diagnosis

Crabs and scabies are diagnosed by visual inspection. Make an appointment to see a doctor at any of our clinics in Greater Victoria.

Treatment of crabs and scabies

  • Crabs and scabies are easily treated with a special shampoo or lotion which can be purchased over the counter at a drug store; ask a pharmacist for help.
  • All bedding, towels and clothes used in the last 3 days must be laundered using the hot cycle for both washer and dryer.
  • You may need to repeat treatment in 7 – 10 days.