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The Respiratory System in Babies

Anatomy of the respiratory system, child
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What is respiration?

Respiration is the act of breathing:

  • Inhaling (inspiration). Taking in oxygen.

  • Exhaling (expiration). Giving off carbon dioxide.

What makes up the respiratory system?

The respiratory system is made up of the organs involved in the interchanges of gases and consists of the:

  • Nose

  • Mouth (oral cavity)

  • Pharynx (throat)

  • Larynx (voice box)

  • Trachea (windpipe)

  • Bronchi

  • Lungs

The upper respiratory tract includes the:

  • Nose

  • Nasal cavity

  • Ethmoidal air cells

  • Frontal sinuses

  • Maxillary sinus

  • Sphenoidal sinus

The lower respiratory tract includes the:

  • Larynx

  • Trachea

  • Lungs

  • Airways (bronchi and bronchioles)

  • Air sacs (alveoli)

What is the function of the lungs?

The lungs take in oxygen, which the body's cells need to live and carry out their normal functions. The lungs also get rid of carbon dioxide, a waste product of the cells.

The lungs are a pair of cone-shaped organs made up of spongy, pinkish-gray tissue. They take up most of the space in the chest, or the thorax (the part of the body between the base of the neck and diaphragm).

The lungs are enveloped in a membrane called the pleura.

The lungs are separated from each other by the mediastinum, an area that contains the following:

  • Heart and its large vessels

  • Trachea (windpipe)

  • Esophagus

  • Thymus

  • Lymph nodes

The right lung has three sections, called lobes. The left lung has two lobes. When you breathe, the air:

  • Enters the body through the nose or the mouth.

  • Travels down the throat through the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe).

  • Goes into the lungs through tubes called mainstem bronchi

    • One mainstem bronchus leads to the right lung and one to the left lung

    • In the lungs, the mainstem bronchi divide into smaller bronchi

    • Then into even smaller tubes called bronchioles

    • Bronchioles end in tiny air sacs called alveoli

Breathing in babies

An important part of lung development in babies is the production of surfactant. This is a substance made by the cells in the small airways and consists of phospholipids and protein. By about 35 weeks gestation, most babies have developed adequate amounts of surfactant. Surfactant is normally released into the lung tissues where it helps lower surface tension in the airways. This helps keep the lung alveoli (air sacs) open. Premature babies may not have enough surfactant in their lungs and may have difficulty breathing.

Reviewed Date: 07-30-2012

Aparato Respiratorio en los Bebés
Neonatology/NICU
W. Thomas Bass, MD
Deborah Devendorf, MD
Susannah Dillender, MD
C W Gowen, MD
Glen Green, MD
M Gary Karlowicz, MD
Edward Karotkin, MD
Jamil Khan, MD
David Oelberg, MD
Kirk Sallas, MD
Tushar Shah, MD
Brett Siegfried, MD
Kenneth Tiffany, MD
Pulmonology
Frank Chocano, MD
Shana Crabtree, MD
Cynthia Epstein, MD
Marilyn Gowen, MD
Jennifer Wiebke, MD
Diseases & Conditions
Acute Respiratory Disorders
Anatomy of the Newborn Skull
Anatomy of the Respiratory System in Children
Assessments for Newborn Babies
Baby's Care After Birth
Breast Milk Collection and Storage
Breastfeeding Difficulties - Baby
Breastfeeding Difficulties - Mother
Breastfeeding Overview
Breastfeeding Your Baby
Breastfeeding: Getting Started
Breathing Problems
Care of the Baby in the Delivery Room
Caring for Babies in the NICU
Chromosomal Abnormalities
Clubfoot
Common Conditions and Complications
Common Procedures
Congenital Heart Disease Index
Digestive Disorders in Children
Fever in A Newborn
Getting Ready at Home
Getting to Know Your New Baby
Glossary - Normal Newborn
Hearing Loss in Babies
Hearing Screening Tests for Newborns
Heart Disorders
High-Risk Newborn Blood Disorders
Ineffective Latch-on or Sucking
Infant Feeding Guide
Infant of Diabetic Mother
Infant Play
Infant Sleep
Infection in Babies
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Insufficient or Delayed Milk Production
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Megaureter
Micropenis
Neurological Disorders in the Newborn
Newborn Appearance
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Newborn Crying
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Newborn Warning Signs
Newborn-Reflexes
Newborn-Senses
Newborn-Sleep Patterns
Normal Newborn Behaviors and Activities
Online Resources - Normal Newborn
Online Resources - Respiratory Disorders in Children
Pediatric Glossary - Respiratory Disorders
Physical Examination of the Newborn
Pregnancy and Medical Conditions
Preparing for Your New Baby
Preparing the Family
Respiratory Disorders in the Newborn
Skin Color Changes
Substance Exposure
Taking Your Baby Home
The Growing Child: Newborn
The Lungs
Thrush
Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn
Umbilical Cord Care
Upper Respiratory Disorders
Vision and Hearing
Vision Overview
Warmth and Temperature Regulation
When to Call Your Physician
Your Workplace

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.