Coral Cuts Facts
- 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.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2017
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM