If a copperhead bites you in SC and you have no cell phone service, follow these tips to survive

A copperhead bite would be a harrowing experience on its own. But also being alone without cell phone service — that would be downright terrifying for many.

However, it doesn’t have to be if you keep your wits about you and follow certain guidelines.

While it will be crucial to seek professional medical care as soon as possible if bitten by a copperhead, doing so might prove more difficult if you’re out enjoying the outdoors of South Carolina where cell phone service can be sparse to nonexistent.

Below are steps to take to increase your chances of survival and minimize discomfort after a venomous snake bite, some experts say.

Copperheads & other venomous SC snakes

Before taking steps after a copperhead bite, it would probably be helpful to know if you were bitten by one in the first place.

The copperhead is the most common venomous snake in South Carolina. The other five types of venomous snakes in the state include the cottonmouth, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the pigmy rattlesnake, the coral snake and the timber rattlesnake, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The copperhead gets its name from the coppery-tan color on its head and on parts of its body, Clemson Cooperative Extension states. Copperheads have triangular-shaped heads, similar to an arrowhead and can grow up to 4 feet long.

Copperheads also feature an hourglass-shaped pattern on their bodies — from the head down to the tail. When curled up, this camouflage can make them look like a pile of leaves. And like most other venomous snakes in South Carolina, copperheads have yellow eyes with black vertical and elliptical pupils.

Stay calm after venomous snake bite

Remaining calm and composed can be vital after a snakebite. Panicking can elevate your heart rate and accelerate the spread of venom throughout your body. However, it may be easier to keep calm with knowledge that deaths from snakebites in South Carolina are uncommon.

“It’s pretty rare,” said Dr. Jill Michels, managing director of the Palmetto Poison Center. “I’ve been here 20 years and there’s been only one death I know of.”

Remove constrictive items

Michels said you should remove and jewelry or restrictive clothing from around the snake bite. She said swelling from the bite will likely occur and any restrictive items could impede circulation and worsen the situation.

Keep the snake bite high

Do your best to keep the snake bite high or at a neutral level to help reduce swelling, Michels said. Also, limit the movement of the affected limb and avoid any unnecessary physical activity.

Clean the wound

Clean the bite wound with water or with soap if possible. While it won’t neutralize the venom, cleaning could help minimize the risk of infection.

Check your iPhone

Do you have an iPhone 14 or later? If so, then you can use Apple’s emergency SOS via satellite feature. The service, which is currently free (though that could change), is for use in areas where there is no cellular or wi-fi coverage.

How it works

If you call or text emergency aid and can’t connect because there’s no cell service, your iPhone will try to connect via satellite. The iPhone will show a prompt, requesting that you point it toward the sky to connect. You must have a clear view of the sky for this to work. If it connects, you’ll then be able to contact emergency services for help.

Get to a hospital

You need to go to a hospital for care. Facilities will have anti-venom to treat you, regardless of which kind of venomous South Carolina snake has bitten you.

“There is no home treatment for a snake bite,” Michels said.

What not to do

There are several things that snake bite victims should not attempt.

“You don’t want to do what you see in the movies,” Michels said.

  • Do not cut the wound or try to suck out the venom. Snakes inject venom with very long, sharp teeth. You will be unable to pull the liquid back out, Michels said. Also, the venom quickly spreads and so you won’t be able to bleed it out either.

  • Do not apply a tourniquet. They can restrict blood flow and lead to severe tissue damage.

  • Do not use ice on the bite. You do not want to use ice to reduce the swelling, as that is a symptom doctors use to determine if a patient is suffering from a snake bite, Michels said.