All About Allergies From OSU Medical Center

Mindi Bull, D.O., a partner with Dr. Smith and Sammy Worrall, D.O. – all OSU Medical Center ENT physicians – discuss several issues for the 40 million Americans that suffer from allergies.

By: Mary Bransford | Category: Health & Fitness | Issue: April 2011

Susan Smith, D.O, Sammy Worrall, D.O., and Mindi Bull, D.O., OSU Medical Center Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists.

Susan Smith, D.O, Sammy Worrall, D.O., and Mindi Bull, D.O., OSU Medical Center Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists.

Almost 40 million American adults and children suffer from allergic rhinitis (AR), also called hay fever, seasonal allergies or nasal allergies. Allergies can develop at any age. They commonly occur in children but, often times, people experience their first symptoms in adulthood.

Airborne allergies include seasonal allergies, such as hay fever (also known as pollen allergy) and perennial (year-round) allergies to things like dust or pets. 

An allergy is the body’s hypersensitivity to substances in the environment. Depending on what is causing a person’s allergies, symptoms can range from mild itching, sneezing, or eczema (inflamed, itchy skin) to severe hives, hay fever wheezing, and shortness of breath. An extreme allergic reaction can result in anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening situation in which a person’s airway swells shut and blood pressure drops.

Why, you may ask, are some people “sensitive” to certain allergens while others are not? According to Susan Smith, D.O., OSU Medical Center ENT physician, “The major distinguishing factor appears to be heredity. Your primary risk of developing allergies is mostly related to your parents’ allergy history.” Dr. Smith said that if neither parent is allergic, the chance that you will have allergies is about 15 percent. “If one parent is allergic, your risk increases to 30 percent, and if both are allergic, your risk is greater than 60 percent,” she added. It’s possible to inherit the tendency to develop allergies, yet never actually have symptoms.

Mindi Bull, D.O., a partner with Dr. Smith and Sammy Worrall, D.O. – all OSU Medical Center ENT physicians – shares that another major piece of the allergy puzzle is the environment. She explains, “You must have a genetic tendency and be exposed to an allergen in order to develop an allergy. Additionally, the more intense and repetitive the exposure to an allergen and the earlier in life it occurs, the more likely it is that an allergy will develop.” Dr. Bull says that there are other important influences that may bring about allergic response. Some of these include smoking, pollution, infection, and hormones.

Dr. Worrall shares that most people who are not “allergic,” the mucus in the nasal passages simply moves foreign particles to the throat, where they are swallowed or coughed out. However, something different happens in a person who is sensitive to airborne allergens, he explains.

In most people with allergies, as soon as the allergen contacts the lining inside the nose, a chain reaction occurs that triggers the mast cells in these tissues to degranulate, releasing histamine and other chemicals. These powerful chemicals cause certain other tissues in the nose to expand. This allows fluids to escape and the nasal mucosa congests, producing swelling that leads to nasal congestion, otherwise known as a stuffy nose. The release of histamines can also cause excessive mucus production, irritation, itching and sneezing.

Dr. Bull shares that some people with allergies develop asthma, which can be a serious condition. The symptoms of asthma include coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing.

The shortness of breath is due to swelling of the airways in the lungs and to excess mucus production and inflammation. Dr. Smith says that asthma can be disabling and sometimes fatal. “If wheezing and shortness of breath accompany allergy symptoms, it is a signal that the airways have also become involved,” she said. Other medical conditions that might accompany symptoms of allergies include eczema and sinusitis.

Anyone who has any respiratory illness that lasts more than a week or two should consult a health care provider. Also, it’s important to see a doctor if you’re experiencing allergies for the first time. Since allergies are such a widespread condition, many primary care doctors treat allergy symptoms. However, evaluation by a specialist may be necessary if allergy symptoms do not improve, or to evaluate other conditions associated with allergies (sinusitis, asthma, eczema, etc.). Dr. Worrall suggests, “When selecting a specialist, it is good to get recommendations from your primary care physician, friends, or professional organizations.”

For more information, please call Dr. Mindi Bull, Dr. Susan Smith or Dr. Sammy Worrall at (918) 744-0228. Their office is located at 4444 S. Harvard Ave. in Tulsa. For more about OSU Medical Center, see To find a physician, call (918) 599-4OSU.


Differences between Allergies and the Common Cold:


  • Allergy symptoms can include a runny or stuffed nose, sneezing, wheezing, and itchy and watery eyes.
  • Symptoms begin right away.
  • Symptoms last as long as you are around the allergen.


  • Signs of a cold can include fever, aches and pains, stuffed nose, sneezing, and watery eyes.
  • Cold symptoms usually take a few days to start.
  • Symptoms should clear up within a week.


For more information, contact

OSU Medical Center

(918) 599-4OSU

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