Fire Coral Cuts and Stings
Fire Coral Cuts and Stings Overview
Fire corals are not true corals. Fire corals are members of the Cnidaria phylum, and although fire coral looks like coral, it is more closely related to jellyfish and other stinging anemones. Fire corals (Millepora) are typically encountered off the Florida coast and in the Caribbean and produce minimal toxicity, predominantly local pain, usually described as stinging or burning pain. In addition, Hydroid corals are sessile creatures that can attach to rocks, coral, seaweed, or pilings. A typical reaction is a mild stinging sensation with occasional development of burning pain and lymphadenopathy and produce similar symptoms as fire coral.
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 nematocysts (an organ in some marine animals consisting of a minute capsule containing an ejectable thread that causes a sting) 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.
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
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