What Does the Respiratory System Do?

Reviewed on 2/24/2021

What Is the Respiratory System?

The body's cells must use oxygen to burn sugar, making the energy you need to function. The chemical reaction gives off carbon dioxide. The lungs and other organs and nerves that make up the respiratory system manage the provision of oxygen for this reaction and vent its CO2 exhaust.
The body’s cells must use oxygen to burn sugar, making the energy you need to function. The chemical reaction gives off carbon dioxide. The lungs and other organs and nerves that make up the respiratory system manage the provision of oxygen for this reaction and vent its CO2 exhaust.

The respiratory system is a group of organs and tissues that are involved in breathing. They function to absorb oxygen from the air we inhale and eliminate carbon dioxide and other waste gases when we exhale.

What Does the Respiratory System Do?

The body needs oxygen to survive. When we inhale, the lungs take in the oxygen from the air we breathe and move it into the bloodstream, which carries it through the body. 

Once the oxygen reaches the body’s cells, it is exchanged for carbon dioxide, which is a waste gas. The bloodstream carries the carbon dioxide back to the lungs, where it is removed from the bloodstream and exhaled in a process called gas exchange. 

Functions of the respiratory system include: 

  • Gas exchange
    • Carrying oxygen to the body’s cells
    • Removing carbon dioxide and other waste gases from the body
  • Helping bring air to body temperature
  • Helping moisturize inhaled air to proper humidity levels
  • Protecting the body from harmful substances
  • Permitting speaking
  • Supporting the sense of smell

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What Are the Parts of the Respiratory System?

Parts of the respiratory system include: 

  • The airways
    • The mouth and nose, where air enters the respiratory system
    • The sinuses, which are hollow spaces in the bones of the head that help regulate the temperature and humidity of inhaled air
    • The throat, which collects incoming air from the nose and mouth where it is then passed down to the windpipe (trachea)
    • The windpipe (trachea) leads from the throat to the lungs
    • Two bronchial tubes that branch from the windpipe, one for each lung, which split even further into bronchioles and air-sacs called alveoli
  • Lungs and blood vessels
    • The pleura are membranes that surround the lungs and separate them from the chest wall
    • Each lung is divided into sections called lobes, which are like balloons filled with sponge-like tissue, and air moves in and out through a branch of the bronchial tube
    • Cilia (which are like fine hairs) line the bronchial tubes and move like waves to carry mucus upward and into the throat where it is either coughed up or swallowed
    • The bronchial tubes branch into bronchioles, and at their ends are air sacs (alveoli) where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide
    • Blood vessels called capillaries move blood through the alveoli in the process of gas exchange
  • Muscles and bones
    • The diaphragm is the wall of muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity, and helps create suction in the chest to inhale
    • The ribs are bones that support and protect the chest cavity

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Reviewed on 2/24/2021
References
https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/how-lungs-work