Coral Cuts Overview
Coral is the hard calcareous outer skeleton (exoskeleton) secreted by many types of marine polyps. The exoskeletons can be very sharp and colorful. Coral reefs are composed of a many different types of polyps that have calcified outer skeletons; reefs can extend for miles and are a favorite place for people to snorkel or scuba dive. Coral formations occur in tropical and subtropical waters. Because coral formations are rigid and sharp, injury can occur after accidental contact, leaving a small amount of animal protein and calcareous material in the wound. The small, harmless-appearing cut may quickly develop into an infected wound. Some corals contain nematocysts (an organ in some marine animals consisting of a minute capsule containing an ejectable thread that causes a sting), which can produce a more significant injury. Occasionally, a cut or abrasion from the coral will expose the open skin to other pathogens that may be floating in the water (for example, Vibrio ssp).
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM