Fire Coral Cuts and Stings
Fire Coral Facts
- Fire corals are not true corals. Fire corals (Millepora alcicornis) are members of the Cnidaria phylum, and although fire coral looks like coral, it is a member of the class Hydrozoa and more closely related to jellyfish and other stinging anemones.
- Fire corals are typically encountered off the Florida coast, in the Caribbean reefs and across the Bermuda platform.
- In addition, fire corals are sessile (fixed in one place) creatures that can attach to rocks, coral, seaweed, or pilings.
- The painful stings of M. alcicornis are inflicted using the cnidae (stinging threads), which are released from a cnidoblast on its surface. These are used to stun prey.
- Fire coral have minimal toxicity.
- These organisms inflict predominantly local pain, usually described as stinging or burning, and possible rash.
- Fire corals have a bright yellow-green and brown skeletal covering and are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical waters.
- Scuba divers often mistake fire coral for seaweed, and accidental contact is common.
- The very small cnidoblast (an organ in some marine animals consisting of a minute capsule) on fire corals contain tentacles that protrude from numerous surface pores. In addition, fire corals have a sharp, calcified external skeleton that can scrape the skin.
What Are the Symptoms of Fire Coral Cuts and Stings?
- Within 5-30 minutes following skin contact with fire coral, an immediate burning sensation or a stinging pain develops.
- A red rash with raised wheals or vesicles appears, and itching develops.
- Lymph gland swelling may occur over time.
- Rarely, nausea and vomiting have been reported.
- Fire coral cuts are treated like all other coral cuts.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/15/2016
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
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