Breathing and Diseases of Lungs and Airways

June 28, 2009

Walls of Air Passages and our Health

Air contains the oxygen which we need. It also holds a lot of other things. Some of these can be dangerous, for example, dust, smoke and harmful bacteria. The amount and type of dust in the air varies a great deal. Some types of dust are more harmful than others. In healthy people the bacteria and larger dust particles all get trapped in the upper air passages. They are therefore prevented from reaching the lungs where they might cause infection, irritation or inflammation. The inner surface of all the air passages (nose, trachea, bronchi etc) is covered by special cells of two main types. These are goblet cells, which produce mucus, and ciliated cells, which have tiny hairs called cilia on them.

Mucus is a thick sticky liquid. The cilia move up and down all the time. Dust particles in the air are trapped by the sticky mucus. The cilia carry the mucus up towards the mouth. Coughing also helps. When the mucus gets to the mouth it is swallowed and eventually passes out of the body.

Good health depends partly on a healthy breathing system. The goblet cells and cilia have a very important part to play in making sure that the breathing system stays healthy.

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