Rebecca Young, at her Hampton Bays office, has taken 5,500...

Rebecca Young, at her Hampton Bays office, has taken 5,500 calls about ticks. Credit: James Carbone

If you have a question about ticks or Lyme disease, Rebecca Young is the person to call. The registered nurse from Sag Harbor has answered more than 5,500 calls to the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Regional Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center since the help line — (631) 726-TICK — was established in 2014.

Young discussed when to remove a tick, decapitation of the pest, and why Vaseline could make the bite even worse.

What do people ask about when they call?

I get calls anywhere from, "I've just been bitten by a tick" to, "I've been sick for 10 years and seen four doctors." In the summer, we are flooded with calls about removing ticks, identifying them and people wondering if they are infected. With global warming and everything, the ticks are coming out more in the winter than they used to … and we get people who’ve been sick for a long time, and they are trying to identify it as Lyme … I’ve got a list of doctors I can refer them to; it depends on what they need.

What are some of the misconceptions people have when they are bitten by a tick?

Some people know it usually takes ticks more than 24 hours to give you Lyme … You want to get it off before the bacteria migrates from the stomach [of the tick] into the saliva and into your body. My message is, don’t focus on 24 hours or 36 hours.

Should people wait to remove a tick?

Get the tick off as soon as possible. Because I've had people who call me and say, "Well, I waited a day and a half so I could go to the ER and have a professional remove it." It’s not a good idea. Even if you do a hack job or just decapitate the tick, you are cutting off the bacterium moving from the abdomen.

What is the best way to remove ticks?

Use pointed tweezers, grab it close to the skin and just pull. Don’t use Vaseline or something you think will make it easier to pull up. If you irritate the tick, it will regurgitate all the bacteria into your body before it lets go. So you're making things worse. Also because it’s important to identify the tick, try to take a picture before you take it out.

Where do you get calls from?

I get them from all over the country, but mostly here on Long Island, New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But sometimes we get calls from Canada and California; they have their own deer ticks, and from the South because that's where the Lone Star tick came from.

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