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Ask Dr. K

I recently got crabs and am convinced it was from receiving oral sex from a man with a beard. It was hard to find good information about what to do. How different are crabs from head lice? Can they move to the head? Does shaving reduce or eliminate the chance of getting crabs? Does shaving after becoming infected get rid of the creatures? In the future, should I look for partners who shave their beards and other body hair? Do store-bought head lice shampoos work against crabs? Is this one of the STDs that condoms don't help against? Am I at risk for crabs by participating in mutual masturbation, oral sex, anal sex and other sexual activities? Thanks for your help.

Crabs are caused by a louse -- often called pubic lice. Different lice like different parts of the human body -- head, body or pubic areas -- and each infestation is caused by a different species, meaning that lice do not move from one area to another during one infestation. This means that you did not get the crabs from your partner's beard.

Over-the-counter anti-lice medications work very well. Speak to a pharmacist about the best kind to buy. Usually the generic or cheapest is fine. Rarely, does it take more than one application. You should also wash your clothes and bedding, or at least remove them from contact with humans for 3 days.

Pubic lice are passed from direct skin-to-skin contact and could be spread by mutual masturbation from one person's pubic area to another's. Lice live on hair follicles so, yes, the absence of hair greatly reduces their ability to infest an area of the body. Condoms do not cover pubic hair, so they don't routinely protect against this STD.

While crabs are easy to transmit, fortunately they are not very common and are easily treatable. They are more of a nuisance than anything else.

To your health,
Dr. K

Last modified on Tuesday, June 03, 2008.
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