×

Please Remove Adblock
Adverts are the main source of Revenue for DoveMed. Please remove adblock to help us create the best medical content found on the Internet.

First Aid for Coral Sting

Last updated March 5, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Corals are tiny marine creatures that live in colonies and form the coral reefs. They have a soft body with a hydra-like form and tentacles around their mouth. The tentacles have stinging harpoons (that inject venom), which can be launched on the slightest of contact pressure.


What is Coral Sting?

Corals are tiny marine creatures that live in colonies and form the coral reefs. They have a soft body with a hydra-like form and tentacles around their mouth. The tentacles have stinging harpoons (that inject venom), which can be launched on the slightest of contact pressure.

What are the Causes of Coral Sting?

Most common causes of Coral Stings include (but are not limited to):

  • Exposure to coral in the deep ocean; generally sea divers and coral reef divers are at risk
  • Keeping them as pets in aquariums
  • Picking up corals with bare hands
  • Walking barefoot on the beach or in shallow sea water
  • Handling corals, either alive or dead

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Coral Sting?

Signs and symptoms of Coral Stings vary according to the type of species the individual is exposed to and the amount of toxin injected. The symptoms may be mild or severe and could include:

  • Mild cases:
    • Local cuts and wounds (often on the legs or arms)
    • Hives , rashes on the skin, which turn into blisters
    • Severe pain and burning sensation on the area of contact
    • Itching
  • Severe symptoms may include:
    • Allergic shock or reaction, in some cases
    • Swollen lymph glands
    • Shortness of breath
    • Swollen face
    • Breathing difficulties
    • Muscular spasms
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Unconsciousness

How is First Aid administered for Coral Sting?

If a Coral Sting (or sting or bite of a marine creature) is suspected, it is always important to call your local emergency helpline number (or 911 in the US) without any delay, and provide as much information as possible, even if the individual does not have any symptoms.

Until medical help arrives:

  • Move the individual away from the water or incident spot
  • Make a note of the exact time of the incident and notify the emergency medical personnel accordingly
  • Try to remove the stinger (if visible), by gently scraping the site using a hard-edged object (either metal or plastic) or a pair of tweezers
  • Clean the wound using seawater
  • Use hot water to inactivate any remaining toxin
  • Try to identify or locate the marine animal (only if safely possible) and keep the medical personnel informed
  • DO NOT give anything orally to the individual
  • Unless directed by the physician, DO NOT give any medication

Who should administer First Aid for Coral Sting?

The individual himself/herself or someone nearby may begin to administer First Aid. Call your local emergency helpline number or 911 immediately as mentioned before.

What is the Prognosis of Coral Sting?

The prognosis of Coral Sting is dependent on the potency of the toxin, the severity of reaction, and timely manner in which treatment is administered.

How can Coral Sting be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Coral Sting include:

  • Avoid making an attempt to touch or handle marine animals unnecessarily, even if they are pets
  • Do not ignore warnings of lifeguards or health officials at the beach
  • Wear protective clothing if you plan to swim or dive in infested areas (suitable wet skin or diver’s suit)
  • Wear protective footwear while walking on beach sand
  • Generally be aware or watchful of the waters you are in (to the extent possible)
  • Do not handle dead corals, since they can also sting
  • Ensure safety precautions while cleaning marine animal aquariums

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

Do’s:

  • Call your local emergency helpline number (or 911) for help
  • Remove the victim immediately from the water
  • Wear gloves while removing stingers
  • When in doubt, wash the affected area with seawater and not freshwater
  • If possible, use hot water to repeatedly wash the wound

Don’ts:

  • Do not hesitate to call your emergency help services
  • Do not remove stingers without wearing suitable protective hand gloves
  • Do not medicate the individual, unless advised by a healthcare professional
  • Do not move the affected region of the body too much
  • Do not run or exercise which might increase the circulation of toxin in the body
  • Do not elevate the affected area above the heart level, since this can also increase circulation of the toxin

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Dec. 27, 2015
Last updated: March 5, 2018