Skip to content

Respiratory system

Breathing is one of the most essential and necessary actions for all living beings, since it allows the individual or animal to be able to inhale and exhale the body’s own gases with the environment through the lungs. However, each system can vary, either according to the organism, habitat in which it develops and quality of life. How do you know? Do not stop reading until the end to know everything about the respiratory system .

What is the respiratory system?

More specifically, this fundamental system of the body is the set of organs that make breathing possible. This is where gas exchange takes place, where the blood is capable of capturing all the oxygen from the atmosphere and eliminating carbon dioxide , which is nothing more than a waste element.

For this, the lungs constitute the main organ of this entire apparatus , in the company of the nostrils, pharynx, mouth, larynx and trachea. While the lungs are closely intertwined with the bronchioles, bronchi and pulmonary alveoli.

What is it for?

As we anticipated previously, the respiratory system represents a synonym of life for both humans and animals, where through respiration they can carry out the correct exchange of gases. But beyond that, this system also plays an important role, since it allows to preserve the natural balance between acids and gases , typical of the body, through the elimination of carbon dioxide from the blood.

Respiratory system: parts and anatomy

The composition of the respiratory system is very broad , as it is a set of organs that work hand in hand for this purpose. Next, you will know what each of those elements that make up this device in the human body are.


These are two cavities, which can vary according to the physiognomy of each person. They allow the entry and exit of air . In this process, the air is humidified, filtered and heated by the turbinates.


Its shape is similar to that of a tube, which is located in the neck with the lining of a mucous layer. This tube connects with the oral cavity, and at the same time with the nostrils , esophagus and larynx.


Thanks to this conduit it is possible to perceive the passage of air, which goes from the pharynx to the trachea and the lungs . Specifically, the vocal cords are found in the larynx.


It is also another tube-shaped element, which allows air to pass through the larynx and bronchi. The lining of the trachea is reinforced by several strong cartilages, which prevent the tube from collapsing under pressure or tension in the neck area.


They are the most essential organs for the respiratory system, since through them the exchange of gases with the blood is achieved. In the lungs there is also what is called the bronchial tree, where small branches are born. On the other hand, there are several elements such as the trachea or the main bronchi, which can be secondary or lobar. These in turn can be divided into tertiary or segmental bronchi , which give rise to the bronchioles . These bronchioles lead to terminal bronchioles, where the respiratory bronchioles are detached and the alveolar sacs meet.

Intercostal muscles

Although it is believed that these are only simple muscles, they are truly important for the easy mobilization of the thorax during the inspiration process . These muscles are located in the holes that exist in the two consecutive ribs.


It is another tough muscle that separates the thoracic and abdominal cavity . The process is carried out in two phases, because when there is contraction, it decreases and increases the size of the thoracic cavity, which causes inspiration. Whereas when it relaxes, the size of the thoracic cavity rises and decreases and causes expiration.

Pleura and pleural cavity

The pleura is specifically the lining of the lungs. It is made up of two layers: the parietal, which is connected to the chest wall, and the visceral, which is in contact with the lungs. Likewise, in the space between the two layers there is a space called the pleural cavity, which allows the lungs to expand during inspiration.

How does the respiratory system work?

Understanding that it is a powerful system that works hand in hand with various elements and organs, the operation is usually broad and in some cases even complicated to understand , but we will explain it to you in an easy and simple way; because when all the functioning of the respiratory system is carried out in a natural way, the human being cannot perceive it and considers that it is something as practical as inhaling and exhaling. But the truth is that it is a whole process worth knowing in detail.

  1. Ventilation

Remember that the function of the respiratory system is based on the displacement of gases or air that come from the atmosphere to the lungs , and then from the lungs to the outside. This is possible by the process known as ventilation. Now, to get into the matter of ventilation, we can tell you that it is a cyclical process that is divided into two, one is inspiration and the other is expiration.

Specifically, inspiration is the process that allows all air to enter the lungs, where the volume of the thorax increases, causing what is called intrapulmonary pressure , thus achieving the escape of air from the outside into the lungs. In this action the main muscles, external intercostals and the diaphragm work directly .

Once the intrapulmonary pressure balances to atmospheric, that is when inspiration stops, and due to the force of the rib cage, it retracts , generating another type of pressure, a positive pressure that exceeds atmospheric and gives rise to the exit of air from the lungs, which is attributed as expiration.

  1. Gas exchange

From there, the way is opened for another process, also connected with what was described above, and that is gas exchange. In this case, when the pulmonary alveoli are filled with air after inspiration , oxygen diffuses throughout the blood, while carbon dioxide travels the other way, passing from the blood to the pulmonary alveoli.

In this process, a crosslinking mechanism can be noticed, since the molecules go from higher to lower in relation to their state of concentration. All this without stopping moving, many times even colliding with each other and repeatedly bouncing between them. This happens faster than you might think , since it takes about 0.75 seconds for blood to circulate through the lung spaces, and the respiratory system diffuses in the first 0.25 seconds.

  1. Oxygen transport

Once the oxygen has already made its way through the blood in the pulmonary alveoli, all that oxygen must be widely distributed throughout the body to respond to the demands of the cells that literally need oxygen to stay actively boosted.

So when the blood has already been oxygenated and is transported to the body’s tissues, it is released from a part of the oxygen only , to join a simple diffusion that takes place from the membrane into the cell to make cellular respiration possible.

It should be noted that the ability of blood to transfer oxygen in a dissolved and direct way is relatively low. It is a difficult element to unify with water. In any case, for this the human body has been created and developed with the presence of a protein called hemoglobin , which allows oxygen to be captured and transported with complete efficiency.

If this protein did not exist, the heart would have to pump many liters of blood per minute , about 80 liters, to be able to mediate such a circumstance; which would be practically impossible for this vital organ.

But since the opposite happens, and hemoglobin is present in every organism, the heart only concentrates on pumping 5 liters of blood per minute, the correct amount to maintain the functioning and oxygenation of the cells of the body at rest.

And in case you didn’t know, each hemoglobin molecule has the capacity to transport about four oxygen molecules. So you can do your own math, as a single red blood cell is made up of 250 million hemoglobin molecules , while in a milliliter of blood there are about 5 million red blood cells. Not enough?

What should normal breathing be like?

Although this can have multiple factors that would change or modify the result, the truth is that under normal conditions, which would be a person without heart or respiratory complications and in good health in general, they should breathe about 15 times per minute , that would transform in quantity to about 500 cc of air per minute that would enter his lungs after inspiration.

In this sense, at the moment of expiration the same amount of air must come out that had already entered. So in one minute the pulmonary ventilation is 7.5 liters, which is called the minute volume. However, this amount can be modified by the depth and frequency of the breaths, thus achieving up to 200 liters per minute.

But if you later measure on your own that everything is going well with your respiratory system, ask for the help of a person to count how many breaths you take in a minute. In this way, you will be able to know if you have normal breathing.

Diseases that affect the respiratory system

Diseases are always surrounding humans, and even animals, so it is not unreasonable to think that the respiratory system may be affected, especially considering that viruses and bacteria from outside constantly enter when the inspiration process is carried out. . The most relevant thing about these diseases is that if they are not treated on time or correctly, they can be fatal. Therefore, its care, and even more so its prevention, is of great importance.

  • Common cold

It is one of the most common infectious diseases that attack the respiratory system, especially in children 5 years and older, who can experience up to 6 or 12 colds in a year.

It is a cold that constantly attacks the nostrils. The most determinant of rhinitis is that it contributes to the development of exacerbations of sinusitis and asthma .

  • Rhinosinusitis

Like rhinitis, it is an infection that affects the sinuses for at least 30 days or so. However, the patient suffering from rhinosinusitis may have no symptoms during the days of infection.

What is commonly called a severe sore throat and high levels of fever , due to the infection that reaches the individual in a viral way . Generally, the patient usually has a runny nose and a moderate dry cough .

  • Tonsillitis

It is an infection that lodges in one or both tonsils .

  • Tracheitis

Tracheitis develops from acute inflammation of the trachea, which represents the airway that unifies the larynx with the bronchi. Also known as bacterial tracheitis, it mostly affects children 5 years of age and older .

  • Bronchitis

Again it is a state of inflammation, but this time in the area of ​​the bronchi, one of the main airways that lead everything to the lungs. Bronchitis can occur in two forms of infection, viral or bacterial . In most cases, tobacco or cigarette smoke is a harmful element.

  • Emphysema

Like bronchitis, emphysema develops mainly from inhaling tobacco and cigarette smoke. You don’t necessarily have to be a smoker to be affected , but if you are, your chances are greatly increased.

Another very common disease in adults and children. It specifically deals with the obstruction of the minor airways, which prevent proper respiratory efficiency if it is not cared for correctly.

  • Pneumonia

It is commonly known as inflammation of the lungs. Generally, the patient suffering from pneumonia is due to the presence of infectious microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses. This disease that attacks the respiratory system occurs more frequently when the defense mechanisms that protect the lungs are not being well cared for in a preventive manner.

  • Silicosis

The infection occurs recurrently in workers in mines or industrial companies, as it is caused by severe and prolonged inhalation or inspiration of chemical compounds , specifically those that contain crystalline silica.

  • Lung cancer

One of the strongest diseases of the respiratory system is lung cancer. This can occur in assiduous smokers, whether of tobacco or cigarettes , as well as in passive smokers. In any case, it can also occur in non-smoking Western women.

How to take care of the respiratory system

It can be difficult and even impossible to maintain control of what you breathe through the nostrils, everything that enters the body through the lungs and even what is filtered through the mouth; Especially when you decide to walk down the street and the environmental pollution does not stop being present with the smoke from cars, the sneeze of a person, or simply the presence of viruses and bacteria, which are practically invisible to the eyes.

However, all is not lost. You can implement simple measures to prevent diseases that alter, infect and affect your respiratory system. First of all, you should avoid being around people who smoke , whether they are active or passive. In the event that you are a smoker, you should change this habit as quickly as possible, both for yourself and for the people around you.

Remember that the greater the exposure to cigarette or tobacco smoke, the chances of contracting diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema or bronchitis are much higher. In addition, this smoke is not the only infectious factor, you can also be affected by the inhalation of other substances such as asbestos and radon gas.

On the other hand, it is recommended that the elderly, who also suffer from heart complications, weak immune systems or alterations in respiratory processes, be vaccinated with an anti-flu every year. In this way, severe flu symptoms can be prevented in this type of patient.

All this must be accompanied by good personal hygiene, specifically hand washing, especially after touching the railings of stairs , buses or walls, waving to familiar people, using the keyboard of a public computer. ., etc. Do not forget also that if you have a clean environment you will have a clean respiratory system.

Website | + posts

Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *