Diagnosis

You or your doctor can usually confirm a pubic lice infestation through a visual examination of your pubic area. The presence of moving lice confirms infestation.

Lice eggs (nits) also may indicate an infestation. However, nits can cling to hairs and be present, although no longer alive, even after successful treatment.

Treatment

If over-the-counter lotions or shampoos (Nix, Rid, others) don't kill your pubic lice, your doctor may prescribe stronger treatments, such as:

  • Malathion (Ovide). You apply this prescription lotion to the affected area and wash it off after eight to 12 hours.
  • Ivermectin (Stromectol). This medication is taken as a single dose of two pills, with an option to take another dose in 10 days if the treatment isn't initially successful.
  • Lindane. Because of its toxicity, lindane is usually prescribed only when other treatments fail. You apply lindane to the affected area and wash it off after four minutes. It's not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, infants or young children, elderly people, or anyone who weighs less than 110 pounds.
  • Eyelash and eyebrow treatments. If pubic lice are found in eyelashes and eyebrows, you can treat them by carefully applying petroleum jelly with a cotton swab at night and washing it off in the morning. This treatment may need to be repeated for several weeks, and can irritate the eyes if used incorrectly.

    If only a few live lice and nits are found, you may be able to remove them using a nit comb or your fingernails. If additional treatment is needed, your doctor may prescribe a topical ointment.

All hairy areas of the body should be thoroughly checked and treated because lice can move away from treated areas to other hairy parts of the body. Shaving won't get rid of pubic lice.

Lifestyle and home remedies

You can get rid of pubic lice with a patient, thorough approach that involves cleaning yourself and any personal belongings that may be contaminated.

These steps may help you eliminate lice infestations:

  • Use lotions and shampoos. Choose from among several over-the-counter lotions and shampoos (Nix, Rid, others) designed to kill lice. Apply the product according to instructions. You may need to repeat treatment in seven to 10 days.
  • Wash contaminated items. Wash bedding, clothing and towels used in the two days prior to treatment with hot, soapy water — at least 130 F (54 C) — and dry them at high heat for at least 20 minutes.
  • Dry-clean or seal unwashable items. If you can't wash an item, have it dry-cleaned or place it in an airtight bag for two weeks.

Preparing for your appointment

If you can't get rid of pubic lice on your own, you may need to talk to your family doctor.

What you can do

Before the appointment, you may want to write a list that answers the following questions:

  • How long have you had pubic lice?
  • What symptoms are you experiencing?
  • How did you become infested?
  • Have you spread the infestation to others?
  • What treatments have you tried?
  • Do you have any chronic health problems?
  • What types of medications or supplements do you take?

What to expect from your doctor

During the physical exam, your doctor will check your genital area for signs of live lice or viable lice eggs (nits).