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Symptoms and Signs of Coral Cuts

Doctor's Notes on Coral Cuts

Coral is a hard-stony substance secreted by marine invertebrates. It forms an external skeleton; colonies form coral reefs in tropical ocean waters. Swimmers and scuba divers often bump up against these hard-external skeletons that result in cuts in the skin, usually on the arms or legs. The symptoms and signs of a coral cut are inflamed, swollen, red and tender sores and/or ulcers that may drain pus. Some cuts may develop redness of the skin around the wounded area in expand suggesting cellulitis has occurred; in addition, red streaks moving up an extremity with pus drainage and/or blister formation are signs that the coral cut is infected and that the infection is spreading rapidly. These signs and symptoms require emergent medical evaluation.

The cause of coral cuts is due to coral contact with human skin hard enough to cause a cut or skin breakage. Other signs and symptoms are due to secondary infections caused by organisms in seawater that enters the cut.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.