Crabs. Not the edible kind.
June 13, 2013 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Multi part question involving crabs (pubic lice), possibly NSFW...

Asking for a friend - he doesn't have a MeFi account and depending on the advice he gets here, didn't want to risk waiting a week for his first shot at a question. Also anonymous because I don't want his troubles associated with my username when searched. :) Everything below is written in his words.

Multi part question. Apologies for the rambling nature of the narrative here.

On Friday evening, I (a guy) met up with another guy and after hitting it off we proceeded back to his place for some fun times. [Before anyone asks, all activity was safe wrt bacterial and viral STDs]. He was almost completely shaven, just a small patch of pubic hair above his package. I am not. While I wasn't specifically on the lookout for crabs in the moment, I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary on him. I noticed nothing over the weekend or even through Monday and most of Tuesday.

On Tuesday evening I was a bit itchy in that region - but had been outside in the heat and humidity, so chalked it up to skin irritation from sweat/chafing/etc. On Wednesday morning, in preparation for my shower, I was still itchy and upon closer examination found several crabs attached to my pubic hairs. Probably between 6 and 10 total. I proceeded to freak out, and went online to find out how to get rid of them. OK, sounds simple - buy a lice kit from the drugstore, use the shampoo and comb as directed on the box, and presto, you're clean. But to keep from reinfecting myself, I also had to clean any recently worn clothing in hot water (above 130 degrees) and use a similarly hot drying cycle. This is to kill any eggs on the clothes. Also wash used bedding, towels, etc for the same purpose. OK, fair enough. I started the first of 5 loads of laundry, got the kit from CVS, did the shampoo and comb routine, and only found one additional (presumably dead) crab. I did not find any nits (eggs) either before or after the shampoo step.
Question 1: The absence of nits on me seems to indicate that the crabs I found were still young, and perhaps just hatched - leading me to believe I didn't actually get adult crabs on Friday, but rather I picked up eggs from the guy or his bedding. Is this a reasonable assumption?

The conventional wisdom on the internet also recommended trimming/shaving as close to the skin as possible, because if there's no hair to cling to they can't come back if I've missed something in my laundry. So I did that as well. Even without extra hair in the way, I still didn't see any eggs, but did notice 2-3 red spots, presumably where they bit to feed on me.

The kit from CVS also came with a spray that can be used on furniture and other things that can't be laundered, which is supposed to kill the eggs. So I sprayed that all over my couch (all cushions, both sides, plus the arms and back to be safe). I have a mattress cover that is primarily meant as a barrier for bedbugs - but the packaging said the material won't allow any parasites or their eggs to attach in a way that would reinfect new bedding that is placed on the bed. The spray says it shouldn't be used on skin, and I didn't like the idea of laying on it all night. Should I have also sprayed the (awful smelling) spray on the mattress cover too?

All the other information I found online seems to indicate that any crabs that fall off a person will die in 2-3 days unless they make their way back onto a host. Also that the eggs need to be in a warm environment to hatch (i.e. temperature of crotch and surrounding skin/hair). I also read that potentially infected items that can't be laundered should be sealed in a plastic bag for 2 weeks. This is where I get confused, and leads to my next question: If live crabs die quickly when not attached to a host, and eggs won't hatch if not kept warm, is the "sealing in a plastic bag" thing actually accomplishing something other than serving as a reminder not to use those items? I can't imagine it's suffocating them. Can I just set those items aside in a location where they won't touch or mingle with items that I do plan to use over the next couple weeks?I don't have a sealable bag large enough to fit my comforter and would prefer not to shell out the money for one if it's not needed.

Additional wrinkle: I have a roommate (also male if it matters) and we share a lot of stuff. I've read that it's "possible" to transmit crabs without sexual contact, but how likely is it in reality? For example, he often takes naps in my bed while I'm at work so he can watch my TV as he falls asleep - will he catch crabs from having been in my bed (clothed) several times since the weekend? We also have several blankets in the living room for getting cozy (separately) while watching TV (I did wash them all today). Neither of us has a favorite, we just grab one at random. Is it possible that the crabs or eggs could have passed through my underwear and shorts onto the blanket, then through his shorts and underwear to infect him the next time he used the blanket?

Obviously, if I can avoid telling him about this embarassing turn of events, that would be best. We are just friends, not at all sexually active, so I feel absolutely zero need to tell him about this if he realistically didn't get these crabs from me in the past few days.

I have tried googling my specific questions above, but I'm either getting conflicting answers, no answer at all, or answers hedged so far with CYA language like "possible" "likely" etc that they are worthless. So for all the MeFites that have specific knowledge here (either due to your profession or a competent, authoritative, and unambiguous resource you can link to), please help me out!

Finally - to those who say just go see my GP - I am currently without insurance and can't afford the visit just to be told what I already found online, again hedged with CYA language that makes it all but useless. Saying something is unlikely but possible could run the gamut of getting into an accident (thousands happen every day) to the universe imploding (not gonna happen, but still technically possible) - so you can see why I am looking for something a little more reliable and absolute here.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
I suspect you are in the UK. I suggest you go to a sexual health clinic and seek a prescription for chromium, which is a topical ointment. You put it on your body then go to bed, wake up and take a shower. then, wash everything you own and hang dry it.
posted by parmanparman at 7:39 AM on June 13, 2013

This should help. The key to treatment in the UK is treating the whole household then repeating the treatment before hatchlings have a chance to lay more eggs. Good luck. I feel for you, I will never forget my entire family coming out in scabies.
posted by BenPens at 7:43 AM on June 13, 2013

I think the asker is in the US, due to references to CVS and health insurance.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I suspect the purpose of sealing stuff in a plastic bag is to prevent hungry crabs from leaving your comforter and strolling across the floor looking for their next host. You could jury rig a giant plastic bag out of an inexpensive (~$3) plastic dropcloth from the paint department of the local hardware store, just ball up your stuff in the middle of the drop cloth, pull all the sides together and tie it off on top with duck tape like a giant hobo bag.
posted by jamaro at 8:32 AM on June 13, 2013

he often takes naps in my bed while I'm at work so he can watch my TV as he falls asleep - will he catch crabs from having been in my bed (clothed) several times since the weekend? We also have several blankets in the living room for getting cozy (separately) while watching TV (I did wash them all today). Neither of us has a favorite, we just grab one at random.

Even though the probability of him catching this sounds very, very low, especially since it sounds like you identified what you had very early, maybe you should just let him know so that he can be on the lookout in case he gets it, too. If he doesn't even know to look and get symptoms, and doesn't know for a few weeks, this whole cycle could continue for a very long time. It sounds like you have have been responsible (treated/taken all the precautions), but I would just let him know 1) that you had and treated them and 2) the precautions that you took in the apartment. I know it may be a hard conversation, but what if it were the reverse scenario? Wouldn't you want to know? He can avoid sleeping in your bed for a few weeks, be on the lookout for his own symptoms, etc.
posted by Wolfster at 9:33 AM on June 13, 2013

The two weeks thing is for nits. Like the phrase "Lice make nits."

You have to allow time for the eggs to hatch and die.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 10:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

From the CDC page:

*Machine wash and dry clothing worn and bedding used by the infested person in the hot water (at least 130°F) laundry cycle and the high heat drying cycle. Clothing and items that are not washable can be dry-cleaned OR sealed in a plastic bag and stored for 2 weeks.

*Do not share clothing, bedding, and towels used by an infested person.

That's likely how you got infected in the first place. Sharing bed linens sounds like a high risk factor for the roomie too. I think to need to warn him. Sorry.
posted by bonehead at 11:26 AM on June 13, 2013

He is definitely at risk of infection, and you should definitely tell him so that he knows to be on the lookout. I've never had crabs, but I have had scabies, twice. From the same guy, without sexual contact. What I did to get rid of them was basically what you're doing, and it was not a big deal and did not come back. I mean, until the next external infection event.

It doesn't have to be all that awkward, and you don't need to go into details about how you picked them up. But if you don't tell him and he does catch them, he'll likely reinfect you, (not to mention other people).
posted by contrarian at 12:20 PM on June 13, 2013

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