What to do if a rattlesnake bites you and you don’t have cell service on an NC hike

North Carolina is home to an abundance of hiking trails to explore during the summer months – and the rattlesnakes that may be lurking there.

There are three rattlesnake species in North Carolina, according to the Carolinas Poison Center: the Time “Canebrake” Rattlesnake, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake and Carolina Pigmy Rattlesnake.

According to data from UNC Chapel Hill, an average of 92 venomous snake bites are reported each year in North Carolina.

“Bites from rattlesnakes are usually more severe than bites from copperheads and are a medical emergency,” the Carolinas Poison Center says.

It’s possible you could end up in the NC wilderness without cell phone service and surrounded by potentially dangerous snakes.

So what will you do if you get bitten?

What to do if you don’t have a cell signal

If you find yourself in a remote area with no cell service, there are still ways you can call for help.

Many satellite emergency communicators can send text messages and have an SOS feature to send coordinates.

Some iPhone users can make an SOS call through the lock screen. The call will automatically call a local emergency number and share your location information, according to Apple. One thing to consider, iPhone 14 phone models and those after can use the emergency SOS feature with only satellite and not cellular data or WiFi coverage.

If you’re lost, you can try getting back to a cell service area by using a handheld GPS, compass or map to help get you back, according to the National Park Service.

Following drainage or stream downhill can be used as a last resort if you’re lost and have no way to get help, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

What to do if you are bitten by a snake

When waiting for help after a snake bite, you should follow these tips from the USDA:

  • Immediately call 911 and stay calm. A higher heart rate will pump the venom through your bloodstream faster.

  • Wash the bite gently with soap and water, and remove any tight clothing or jewelry around areas that may swell. Keep the bite below heart level if possible. This will stop the venom from reaching your heart as quickly.

  • Do not restrict blood flow by applying a tourniquet or icing the wound. Many amputations from rattlesnake bites occur because the wound was iced or blood flow was restricted.

  • Do not try to suck the poison out with your mouth. The poison could possibly enter another cut in your mouth or be swallowed.

What happens after a snake bite

If you experience any of the following symptoms while on a hike, you may have been bitten by a rattlesnake, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • A pair of puncture marks at the wound

  • Redness and swelling around the bite

  • Severe pain at the site of the bite

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Labored breathing

  • Disturbed vision

  • Increased salivation and sweating

  • Numbness or tingling around your face or limbs

How to avoid snake bites

You can avoid snake bites by using the following tips, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians:

  • Avoid places where snakes may live, such as tall grass, rocky areas, fallen logs and marshes.

  • Poke around at the ground in front of you with a long stick when moving through tall grass or weeds to scare away snakes.

  • Watch where you step or sit when outdoors.

  • Wear loose, long pants and high, thick leather or rubber boots.

  • Shine a flashlight on your path when walking outside at night.

  • Never handle a snake, even when you think it’s dead.