HALIFAX -- A sunny day at the beach took a frightening turn for a Halifax-area family after their young daughter was stung by a Portuguese man o’ war.

Seven-year-old Maria Legge was swimming at Lawrencetown Beach on Sunday when she spotted what she thought were a pair of pink sunglasses floating in the water.

Instinctively, Maria went to grab the sunglasses, and immediately regretted it.

“It really hurt,” says Maria.

“I heard her screaming, she was screaming and crying like I’d never heard, and she came running up to the beach and showed us her hand,” says the girl's mother, Kristy Legge.

Although she flung the creature away, some of the broken purple and pink tentacles remained wrapped around Maria’s hand -- an unmistakable trait of the Portuguese man o’ war, which is related to the jellyfish and is infamous for its painful sting.

Legge says her daughter was wearing a wet suit, so the sting was contained to her left hand.

The creature washed back ashore, as Maria’s symptoms worsened by the minute.

“We got the tentacles off with a towel, and Aunt Amy said we should go to the lifeguard. And I was too tired to walk, so my dad had to carry me halfway,” recalls Maria.

“There was no question, it was time to take her to the IWK hospital,” says Legge.

After cleaning up the site and checking Maria’s heart, staff at the Halifax children's hospital treated the sting with vinegar, allowing her to return home a few hours later with a clean bill of health.

A day later, the incident was still the talk of the beach in Lawrencetown.

“I’ve been coming here with my wife and kids for about 15 years, and we have never seen anything like it before,” says Andrew Parrott, who witnessed Maria’s close call.

Experts say the warm waters bring more tropical sea cultures to Nova Scotia’s beaches, including the Portuguese man o' war, which have been spotted at several beaches in the last few weeks.

“It’s certainly something that we expect to see more of as waters warm with climate change,” explains Aaron MacNeil, an associate professor of biology at Dalhousie University.

While the Portuguese man o' war has caused deaths in the past, MacNeil said that's only in very severe cases.

The man o’ war, or "blue bottle" as it is known by some, is fairly rare on the Atlantic coast, but MacNeil says where there is one, there are often more, and other unusual creatures could make an appearance as well.

“This year it is particularly warm in the north Atlantic -- a couple of degrees warmer than you’d expect. And as a result of that we’re seeing unusual animals, and there’s an expectation that it will be a very active hurricane season as well,” says MacNeil.

After Maria’s close call, she has some advice for other kids -- avoid grabbing brightly coloured objects they may spot floating in ocean waters.

“And tell your parents!” she emphasizes.