Fire coral gets its name from the fiery sensation experienced after people come into contact with a member of the species. The mild to moderate burning that it causes is the result of cnidocytes embedded in its calcareous skeleton. These cnidocytes contain nematocysts that “fire” when touched, injecting their venom. Despite its calcareous structure, fire coral is not a true coral; these animals are more closely related to Portuguese man-of-war and other hydrozoans than to true corals (anthozoans).
1 Learn to recognize and avoid touching fire coral.
2 If you need to kneel on the ocean floor, look for clear sandy areas.
3 Remember that hard surfaces such as rocks and old conchs may be colonized by fire coral even if they do not look branchy.
4 When scuba diving, master buoyancy control and look down during descent to avoid accidental contact.
1 Rinse the affected area with household vinegar.
2 Should vesicles (blisters) develop, take care not to puncture them. Let them dry out naturally.
3 Keep the affected area clean, dry and aerated — time will do the rest.
4 For open wounds, seek medical evaluation. Fire coral venom is known to have dermonecrotic effects. Share this information with your physician before any attempts to suture the wound, as wound edges may become necrotic. Antibiotics and a tetanus booster may be necessary.
Disclaimer: The Emergency Guide is provided as a reference only. Every effort has been taken to acquire and publish accurate information provided by medical authorities. In case of emergency, always call or have someone CALL 9-1-1.
Information provided by Divers Alert Network (DAN).
For more information, visit DAN.org/Health/Hazardous-Marine-Life.