SEXUAL HEALTH: What's In Your Pants?
Health & Wellbeing
Posted on 27 Jul 2016

So you’ve got a nice pair of pants in which to look impressive - but are you worried there’s something in them that shouldn’t be there? Birmingham LGBT gives us the low-down on what’s likely to be lurking in them...

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of wearing a brand new pair of sexy pants. It’s a real confidence booster - and it’s always great to pull someone and find out they’re wearing some sexy underwear. 
But have you ever wondered what other surprises might be waiting for you down there?

We all know how important it is to give the right first impression, from what you’re wearing and what aftershave you’re using to having fresh breath and clean teeth - but what about our sexual health? Do we take as much pride in what’s in our pants as what’s on them? 
It doesn’t take long to have a sexual health checkup, and there’s a great feeling of emotional wellbeing and confidence that comes with taking control of the situation. Think of it as being ‘match ready’ (or at least ready to play with something).

Here’s a couple of things which could be found in your pants that you’d probably prefer weren’t there...

Pubic Lice (Crabs) 

Pubic lice are tiny, parasitic insects that live on coarse human body hair, such as pubic hair. As well as being found in pubic hair, the lice are also sometimes found in underarm and leg hair, hair on the chest, abdomen and back, facial hair such as beards and moustaches, eyelashes and eyebrows (only very occasionally).

Pubic lice are spread through close bodily contact, most commonly sexual contact. They aren’t connected to poor personal hygiene. The lice crawl from hair to hair but can’t fly or jump, and they need human blood to survive. It’s also possible - though less common - for pubic lice to be spread through sharing clothes, towels and bedding. Because these lice are usually spread by direct, intimate skin-to-skin contact, avoid contact with known infected people - and also with textiles or clothing that may have been infested by someone who’s infected. 

Symptoms are the same for men and women. These include: itching in the affected areas; inflammation and irritation caused by scratching; black powder in your underwear; blue spots or small spots of blood on your skin, such as on your thighs or lower abdomen (caused by lice bites).

Pubic lice can be treated at home with insecticide cream, lotion or shampoo. Your GP, pharmacist or sexual health clinic can advise you about which treatment to use and how to use it. It’s important to follow their advice. Some treatments only need to be applied to the affected area, but sometimes the whole body must be treated. The treatment usually needs to be repeated after three to seven days. After treatment has been completed, ensure that all clothing and linens have been thoroughly cleaned to avoid re-infection or spread of infection to someone else in the home.

Scabies

Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by a parasitic mite which lives on the skin and burrows into it. It can be passed from one person to another through close skin-to-skin contact. The skin-to-skin contact needs to be for a reasonably long period of time, however - usually at least 15 to 20 minutes. The mites live in skin and can survive away from the host human for about 24 to 36 hours. You are unlikely to catch scabies from an infected person by brief, casual contact such as a handshake or a hug. You are also unlikely to catch scabies from bedding and towels, unless you share them or use them immediately after they’ve been used by someone with scabies. However, just in case, it’s best to treat bedding and towels by hot washing.

Symptoms are the same for men and women and include:

Itching - This is the main symptom of scabies.

Mite tunnels (burrows) - These may be seen on the skin as fine, dark or silvery lines about two to 10mm long.

Rash - The rash usually appears soon after the itch starts. Typically blotchy and lumpy, it can appear anywhere on the body.

Scratching - Scratching due to intense itching can cause minor skin damage. In some cases, the damaged skin becomes infected by other germs (bacteria). 

Aggravation of pre-existing skin conditions - Scabies can worsen the symptoms of other skin conditions, particularly itchy skin problems such as eczema, or problems such as psoriasis.

To confirm the diagnosis, a skin sample may be gently scraped from the affected area so it can be examined under a microscope for evidence of scabies mites, their eggs and faeces. 

Various treatments are available but none will completely get rid of the itching immediately. The most common treatment is the application of an insecticide cream. Treatment decisions must be made in consultation with your medical provider, as these medications are only available by prescription. If more than one person is infected, the clinician may be able to prescribe for those close contacts as well. Cleaning of clothing and bedding which might have been infested should be done on a hot wash to eliminate all the mites. Daily hot baths and scrubbing with soap and water will NOT cure a scabies infestation. Insecticide cream must be used.

However, you will still be itchy for a while after successful treatment. It’s normal for it to take up to two or three weeks (and sometimes up to six weeks) after the mites have been killed by treatment for the itch to go completely.

Even after successful treatment, in a small number of cases there may remain some itchy brownish-red lumps (nodules) up to 2cm in diameter. If these remain, they most commonly occur on the genitals and armpits. These lumps are neither infectious nor mean that the mite is still present. They occur in some cases as a prolonged skin reaction to the scabies mite. If they occur, they usually go within three months, but occasionally last up to one year. As itching can be a distressing symptom, you could speak to your GP or pharmacist, who can usually give advice regarding suitable products (such as creams or lotions) that can help. Avoid applying strong steroid creams, especially if the diagnosis of scabies is uncertain. The treatment for all family members should be started at the same time in order to control the spread of the infection. Only when the life cycle of the mite is broken can it be eradicated.

So, if it’s not just the material of your pants that’s making you itch, pop in and see Birmingham LGBT for a sexual health checkup.

Birmingham LGBT is located at the Birmingham LGBT Centre, 38/40 Holloway Circus, Birmingham.
For more information, email sexualhealth@blgbt.org or call 0121 643 0821.

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