Take a look at the respiratory system

You probably already know that breathing is a vital process. No human being can survive without the air we breathe. But do you know how we breathe? Or what organs are involved in this process?

The respiratory apparatus or system is the set of organs whose main function is the exchange of gases. Through it we obtain oxygen from the air we breathe (inspiration or inhalation) and expel carbon dioxide (expiration or exhalation).

The organs that make up the respiratory system are the nose (nostrils), mouth, pharynx, larynx, trachea, and lungs. The lungs consist of bronchi, bronchioles, and pulmonary alveoli.

The process of breathing: inspiration and expiration

When we inhale, air enters through the nose or mouth, which moistens and warms the air to prevent it from irritating the lungs. Then, it travels towards the trachea reaching tubular branches inside the lungs known as bronchi. After passing through the bronchi, the air moves through smaller branches called bronchioles to finally reach tiny air sacs called alveoli.

It is in the alveoli that oxygen exchange occurs. Oxygen passes through the walls of each alveolus into the tiny capillaries (blood vessels) that surround it. It then attaches to red blood cells and travels through the bloodstream to the heart. The heart sends oxygenated blood to all the cells in the body. The carbon dioxide-rich blood returns to the heart through the veins. The heart pumps this blood to the lungs, where the carbon dioxide is transferred to the alveoli to be removed from the body by expiration, or exhalation.

Thanks to the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, the lungs expand and contract so you can breathe in and out.

Parts of the respiratory system:

Nostrils: allow air to enter and exit through the nose. The nostrils are covered with hair that trap dust particles and filter the air we breathe.

Pharynx: tube-like structure that connects the oral cavity and nostrils with the esophagus and larynx. The pharynx carries the food and air we breathe, so it is also part of the digestive system.

Larynx: tube that allows air to pass from the pharynx to the trachea and lungs. In the larynx are the vocal cords.

Trachea: long tube that allows air to pass between the larynx and the bronchi. The lining of the trachea produces mucus that traps dust and other dirt particles.

Lungs: two spongy organs in our chest that have the function of gas exchange.

Bronchi: tubes that branch allowing the passage of air between the trachea and the bronchioles.

Bronchioles: smaller tubes of the bronchi, they contain air sacs known as alveoli.

Alveoli: branches at the end of the bronchioles responsible for gas exchange.

Diaphragm: muscle that extends below the lungs separating the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. On inspiration, or inhalation, the diaphragm contracts and descends, causing the chest cavity to expand and air to enter the lungs. In expiration or exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes and rises, the chest cavity decreases in size causing air to exit the lungs.

Take care of your body

Exercise is an activity that helps you strengthen your entire body, especially your lungs and heart. When you run, jump or ride a bike, your lungs require more air to give your cells the oxygen they need. Don’t forget to wash your hands and cover your mouth with your forearm when you sneeze or cough to prevent the spread of germs and respiratory illnesses like the flu.

Did you know . . . ?

✔ The left lung is slightly smaller than the right lung because it shares space with the heart in the chest.
✔ Although the number of times we breathe varies, according to scientific studies, a child between the ages of 6 and 12 can breathe around 20 times per minute when at rest. The above is equivalent to 30,000 times per day. When you exercise, the number of times you breathe increases.
✔ Our lungs contain more than 600 MILLION alveoli.