Tempted to touch this beautiful sea creature on the beach? Its venomous bite can send you to the hospital

Tourists flocking to Texas beaches this month could encounter something they probably haven’t seen before: a small, bright blue and silver sea animal known as a blue dragon (blue dragonin English).

While these little 1-inch creatures may seem harmless—some have compared them to Pokémon—experts warn that touching them can cause a painful sting.

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“There are all kinds of stories of people accidentally stepping on these (organisms) or picking them up, squeezing them and getting stung. And yes, things don’t end well,” said Jace Tunnell, a marine biologist at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

The scientific name of these little creatures is Glaucus atlanticus. They navigate the surface of the ocean feeding on the toxins of the Portuguese man-of-war (another marine organism similar to jellyfish) and similar animals.

Blue dragons are tiny sea creatures, but they can cause painful stings.S. Rohrlach / Getty Images / iStock

As southeasterly winds increase during spring, dragons come ashore, increasing the chance of giving beachgoers a very bad time.

The bite of these organisms “can be 3 to 5 times more (painful) than the bite of a Portuguese man-of-war,” warned Tunnell, who saw one of the first blue dragons of the season on North Padre Island last month.

The pain can last up to three hourshe warned.

“You’ll know right away if you’ve been stung by a blue dragon,” Tunnell said. “It will be intense pain. “It will feel like someone is poking your skin with needles.”

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The blue dragons They live in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, but their habitat is expanding, according to American Oceans, an advocacy group that aims to educate the public about marine species.

“They have been found off the east and south coasts of South Africa, in European waters, near Mozambique, and off the east coast of Australia,” according to the group. A definitive connection to this pattern with climate change has not been established, but scientists say it is probably playing a role.

“With rising temperatures, we expect the blue dragon’s presence to expand over time,” Tunnell said.

One of the reasons we hear more about blue dragons now is greater awareness of their existence. “I think we’re just seeing them more,” she said.

These marine creatures can sting in the water if they feel threatened or agitated, and even after reaching land and dying. Many people do not know this, and their first instinct is usually to touch them, as seen in videos on social networks.

A bad reaction to a blue dragon sting can cause vomiting and disorientation, which may require a visit to the emergency room.

“You don’t know how your body will react to the poison, and that’s the key,” Tunnell noted. “Every person’s body reacts differently.”

When faced with a sting, experts recommend pouring vinegar or warm water over the site of the incident, but not going into the sea or rubbing the sting with sand.

Parents going to the beach with young children should be very careful if there are blue spots on the coast, experts say. They also recommend talking to children so that they don’t touch anything without asking an adult first.

“Take pictures of them, you know, make a video of them or things like that. If you want to pick them up and put them in water to see them at all, use a shovel.” Tunnell said. “But we touch them”.