The respiratory system is a group of organs and structures that helps us breathe. It is made up of the lungs, airways, muscles, and linked blood vessels. The airways are the pipes that both carry oxygen-rich air to the lungs and carry carbon dioxide out of the lungs. These include the nose and linked air passages (nasal cavities), the mouth, larynx (or voice box), trachea (windpipe), tubes (bronchial tubes or bronchi) and branches. First the air is both warmed and wet when it enters the nose/mouth because the lungs can be irritated by cold, dry air.
The air then travels through the larynx and down the trachea, where it splits into two bronchial tubes that then enter the lungs. Another part of the respiratory system are the lungs and blood vessels, which deliver oxygen to the body and remove carbon dioxide. The lungs lie on either side of the breastbone and fill the inside of the chest cavity. Bronchi branch into thousands of smaller thinner tubes called bronchioles within the lungs that each end in alveoli, bunches of tiny, round air sacs. These alveoli are each covered in a mesh of tiny blood vessels called capillaries, which connect to a network of veins and arteries that move blood through the body.
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Oxygen from the air that is moved into the blood in the capillaries uses the pulmonary vein and its branches to the heart and out to the body. Once the cells throughout the body use the oxygen, they create the waste gas we know as carbon dioxide. It goes back up to the heart and travels through the pulmonary artery and its branches back to the capillaries that surround the alveoli. The lungs breathe out and the carbon dioxide is released from the body for other organisms to use. The muscles used for breathing include the diaphragm, intercostal muscles, abdominal muscles, and the muscles in the neck and collarbone area. These muscles near the lungs help expand/contract lungs to allow breathing.
Located below the lungs, the dome-shaped diaphragm is the main muscle used for breathing and separates the abdominal cavity from the chest cavity. The ribs also play a role in the respiratory system, protecting and supporting the chest cavity. To accommodate the lungs expanding and contracting, they also move slightly to let that happen.
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