STD Home > Transmission of Pubic Lice

Because pubic lice can travel quickly, they are easily spread from person to person. Transmission of pubic lice usually occurs through sexual contact, although, in some cases, infestation can be spread through contact with an infested person's bed linens, towels, or clothes. While they can move rapidly, they cannot live long away from a host. Therefore, transmission of pubic lice cannot occur on toilet seats.

How Is Pubic Lice Spread?

Pubic lice (also called pubic crabs or simply "crabs") are tiny, wingless parasitic insects. They live for about a month and require blood in order to survive. Without blood meals, they die within one to two days. Pubic lice are quite active and can travel quickly, which explains why they are transmitted so easily. However, pubic lice are not long-distance travelers, and they do not do well away from the host for long periods of time.
Pubic lice are usually spread through sexual contact. This is why it is known as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). In rare cases, infestation can be spread through contact with an infested person's bed linens, towels, or clothes. Infection in a young child or teenager may indicate sexual activity or sexual abuse. Animals do not get or spread pubic lice.

Can Transmission of Pubic Lice Occur on Toilet Seats?

A common misconception is that infestation can be spread by sitting on a toilet seat. This isn't likely, since lice cannot live long away from a warm human body. Also, lice do not have feet designed to walk or hold onto smooth surfaces such as toilet seats.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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