What is Coral? What are Coral Cuts?
- 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).
Coral Cuts Symptoms
- The inflamed, swollen, red, tender and sometimes itchy wound may develop into a festering sore or ulcer with a pustular (infectious) drainage.
- Spreading redness of the skin around the wounded area suggests expanding infection (cellulitis) and requires immediate medical attention.
- Red streaks moving up an extremity, especially with pus draining, or a blister more than 3/16 of an inch (5mm) in diameter (bullae) forms requires immediate medical attention.
When to Seek Medical Care for Coral Cuts
- Seek medical treatment in cases of severe cuts or infection, or if a wound is not healing or is not healing and becoming larger.
- A doctor should be consulted about treatment with available medications. Occasionally, long-term infections may develop (for example, fish handler's disease).
- Rapid progression of a red blister-producing infection, especially if a person is an alcoholic, is a medical emergency.
Pictures of Coral
Picture of Live Corals, Image Courtesy of Cynde Lee Picture of Live Corals, Image Courtesy of Cynde Lee Picture of Live Corals, Image Courtesy of Cynde Lee