A coral cut is a physical injury sustained by coming into contact with the hard skeletons that make up the exterior of individual coral organisms, which make up coral reefs. Commonly, such a cut causes bleeding, pain, and swelling at the site. Cuts caused by coral can become infected and require medical care if they are not treated properly, especially if coral fragments, bacteria, proteins, or toxins from the organism remain in the wound. To avoid infection, an injured person should scrub the wound with soap and water immediately, then apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a bandage. It is important for individuals to seek immediate medical attention if they receive a severe cut, especially if the injury bleeds heavily, is to bone or other internal tissues, or develops into a festering ulcer or sore.
Coral and coral reefs are made up of thousands of tiny organisms called polyps. These polyps produce calcium carbonate, which hardens and forms the exterior skeleton. Coral reefs are mainly found in tropical and subtropical oceans and are popular destinations for swimmers, divers, and snorkelers. The surfaces and protrusions of these organisms are often sharp enough to cut skin and underlying tissue even if only brief contact occurs and even if a swimmer is wearing protective gear such as a wetsuit.
The most important thing after suffering a coral cut is for the injured person to make sure that the wound is cleaned thoroughly. Vigorous cleaning and scrubbing of the wound with a brush, soap, and water is recommended. Flushing the wound with plenty of fresh water also helps clean out any debris, and the person can also apply saline or an antiseptic solution to the injury. The application of acetic acid or isopropyl alcohol can help if there is a stinging sensation.
After thorough cleaning, the cut should be covered with a bandage. Rinsing the injury daily and applying antibacterial ointment three to four times a day can also help prevent infection. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be used for pain relief if needed. In some cases, coral cuts can lead to serious bacterial infections with increasing redness and tenderness around the wound. Oral antibiotics may be needed to treat the infection, and it is important for people who have signs of an infection to consult a healthcare professional to get the proper treatment.