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What Is the Treatment for Crabs?

Treating crabs involves applying a medicated lotion or shampoo to the affected area and cleaning contaminated materials thoroughly. The infestation and its accompanying signs should disappear within a week or two.

Treatment Options

If you have crabs, also known as pubic lice because of their tendency to live on pubic hair, you should first contact your health care provider who can recommend one or more antiparasitic products to treat the infestation. Common treatments include:

  • Lotion containing 1% permethrin, which you can purchase without a prescription.
  • Lotion containing malathion, which does require a prescription but is effective against both the lice and their eggs. You apply this lotion to the affected area and leave it on for eight to 12 hours.
  • Topical or oral ivermectin that requires two doses 10 days apart.
  • Medicated shampoo containing lindane. This is a strong and potentially toxic antiparasitic that your medical provider should only prescribe if no other treatments are working.

Regardless of the treatment type, follow the dosing amount and period exactly as recommended on the label. You might still experience itching while treating the infestation, but it should subside within a week or two. You might also find lice eggs still clinging to your pubic hairs post-treatment; simply remove them with tweezers. If one round of treatment isn’t effective, you might need to repeat the dose or try a stronger option. Avoid having sex during this time.


Because crabs are extremely contagious, treatment will only be successful if you also clean any materials and items the lice might have come in contact with. Wash all underwear, clothing, towels, and linens you used before starting treatment in very hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit), then dry it on a high heat cycle.

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