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Q & A with Dr. Cullins: STIs/STDs

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    Can shaving infected hair get rid of critters like scabies and pubic lice?

    No. Shaving, dousing with kerosene, hot baths, and other so-called remedies just won't work. Scabies are mites that belong to the same family as spiders. Pubic lice are tiny insects that look a lot like crabs. Both are transmitted through sexual and intimate contact. They can also be picked up from infested bedding and clothing. Scabies get under the skin. Pubic lice attach their eggs to pubic hair.

    Symptoms usually include intense itching. Scabies also appears as small bumps or rashes that look like dirty, small curling lines, especially on the penis, between the fingers, on buttocks, breasts, wrists, thighs, and around the navel.

    To get rid of scabies, follow the directions on the package insert of a prescription medication such as Nix, Elimite, or Scabene.  Your clinician may also be able to suggest treatments that are less toxic if the infestation is not severe.  Repeated neck-to-toe applications may be necessary. Everyone who may have been exposed to scabies should be treated at the same time. All bedding, towels, and clothing that may have been exposed should be thoroughly washed or dry cleaned, and the home should be thoroughly vacuumed.

    To get rid of pubic lice, follow the directions on the package insert of an over-the-counter medication such as A-200, RID, and InnoGel Plus. (Pregnant and breastfeeding women and infants must use products especially designed for them.) As with scabies, repeated neck-to-toe applications may be necessary. (Many clinicians do recommend trimming back the pubic hair before shampooing to cut down on the number of nits. This can help treatment work faster because fewer nits need to be treated after some have been shaved off.) And everyone who may have been exposed to public lice should be treated at the same time. All bedding, towels, and clothing that may have been exposed should be thoroughly washed or dry cleaned, and the home should be thoroughly vacuumed.

    Scabies and pubic lice are highly contagious. Condoms usually don't cover all the areas that are infested so scabies can be transmitted even if condoms are used. The only protection for sexually active people is to limit the number of sex partners. Limiting the number of sex partners can help reduce the possibility of exposure to these infestations.

Published: 08.01.06 | Updated: 11.08.07

This column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have a medical problem, please call toll-free 1-800-230-PLAN for an appointment with the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you.

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