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Fire coral, also known as Fire Weed, Fire Sponge, Red Sea Coral or Stinging Coral. It has a bright yellow-green and brown skeletal covering and are commonly found in tropical and subtropical waters. Divers often mistake Fire Coral for seaweed, and accidental contact is very common. Fire Coral is a coelenterate of the Milleporina order and of the Hydrozoan class (Hydroid). It is suitably named as contact with this coral is rewarded with a sharp burning sensation as the coral automatically releases nematocysts, ( toxin-releasing organelles) resulting in cutaneous lesions that appear immediately after contact with the skin. These small nematocysts contain tentacles that protrude from several surface pores. The reaction is caused primarily by the toxins promoting histamine release, the bodys autonomic reaction to a foreign body. The severity of the reaction is individual dependent on the sensitivity of the victim. Symptoms can range from nausea to respiratory distress. The lesions will generally spontaneously heal in approximately two months but there have been cases reported lasting significantly longer. The stinging will disappear usually between one and 24 hours later but the irritation and itching can last for four to eight weeks.


Signs and symptoms

- Immediate burning or stinging pain develops over 5-30 minutes.
- A red rash with raised wheals or vesicles appears.
- Itching develops. 
- Lymph gland swelling may occur over time.
- Rarely, nausea and vomiting has been reported. 
- In individuals with increased sensitivity respiratory distress and tachycardia have been reported.


1. Rinse with seawater. Avoid fresh water because it will increase pain.
2. Apply topical acetic acid (vinegar) or isopropyl alcohol.
3. Remove tentacles if present with tweezers.
4. Immobilize the extremity because movement may cause the toxin to spread.
5. Hydrocortisone cream may be applied 2-3 times daily for itching but should be discontinue immediately if any signs of infection appear (increased redness, heat, pain, swelling, loss of function of affected limb or discharge).
6. If the victim develops shortness of breath (respiratory distress); swelling of the tongue, face, or throat; or other signs of an allergic reaction, treat for an allergic reaction - maintain airway and circulation and seek medical attention immediately.
7. If there are no signs of allergic reaction, the pain may be relieved with an analgesic every 4 hours and/or an antihistamine every 6-8 hours.

In severe cases, seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Consult your doctor for treatment with suitable medications


eMedicine Consumer Journal, August 1 2001, Volume 2, Number 8
Dermatovenerologica, 2001, Volume 10, Number 1


The information provided above is for general purpose use and provided as guidance that is suggestive, not prescriptive, invasive, or medical in nature. You should always consult with or see a medical practitioner for definitive health care information or to receive medical treatment.