While head lice are extremely contagious and can be transferred just by being in close contact with someone, like in a school or playgroup situation, genital lice are generally spread only one way – through sexual contact. If you are trying to protect yourself from genital lice, you will need to take that under consideration.
Life expectancy of genital lice
Genital lice cannot survive away from a human host for longer than 24 hours. The eggs, however, are able to survive nearly a week without a human host. Therefore, it is important to recheck the patient for genital lice about a week after treatment to make sure that the genital lice are indeed gone.
How you can get genital lice
Most of the time, genital lice are caught through sexual contact with an infected person. In rare cases, sharing bedding or clothing with an infected person can also spread genital lice. In young children and teens, genital lice can be a sign of sexual abuse and/or activity.
Ways to prevent genital lice
Use treatments as directed. If you or your partner has genital lice, it is important to use all treatments as directed. Failure to complete a treatment could leave some eggs alive, which will then hatch into reproducing adults.
Treat the entire family. If one person in the family has genital lice, it is possible for the genital lice to spread to other family members. Therefore, all family members should be checked and treated for genital lice, especially those who might share bedding or clothing.
Treat sexual partners. If you have genital lice, you should inform any sexual partners so that they can be checked and treated for them as well. If your partner has genital lice, be sure to check and treat yourself as needed.
Avoid sex. Since genital lice are usually transmitted through sex with an infected person, sexual contact should be avoided until the genital lice have been treated. This includes having sexual contact with an infected person or having sex while you are infected with genital lice.
Wash bedding. Genital lice and their eggs can survive for short periods of time on bedding, which allows them to move from one host or another. All bedding, including sheets, blankets, pillows, etc. should be washed in very hot water (at least 125 degrees F) and dried for 20 minutes. This will kill off any genital lice or eggs that may be hiding there.
Wash clothing. Like bedding, genital lice and eggs can survive a short time on clothing, particularly undergarments. All clothing should be washed in very hot water (at least 125 degrees F) and dried for 20 minutes to kill eggs and adult genital lice. If clothing cannot be washed in hot water, then dry cleaning is recommended
Nothing is a 100% guarantee to prevent genital lice if you are in close contact with someone that has them. Thus, it is highly recommended that you check yourself periodically during the infestation time to make sure that even with prevention you have not become infected with genital lice.