Your air sacs
Your air sacs, your alveoli are very easy to see in a picture – they look like bunches of grapes! They have a very important job – it is in the alveoli that oxygen from the air you breathe is swapped for waste products like carbon dioxide. Without your alveoli, you wouldn’t be able to take any oxygen from the air. If you damage some of your alveoli or if they get clogged up if you are sick, it can be difficult to take in enough oxygen and can be very unpleasant. So, how does air get to your alveoli?
Every time you breathe, your lungs take in air. You lungs look like sponges on the outside but inside they are a whole network of pipes and tubes! Air comes from your nose and mouth down your trachea, your windpipe. This breaks into two main tubes called the bronchi, one of which goes to your right lung, the other of which goes to your left lung. Each bronchus (one of the bronchi) is like the branch of a tree – it has lots of little twigs coming from it. These are called bronchioles and they are about as wide as a hair! Right at the end of the bronchioles are your alveoli, your air sacs. They are so tiny that almost 600 million fit into you lungs! Each one of these is covered in absolutely tiny tubes called capillaries which is where red blood cells, one cell at a time, swap the oxygen you inhale for the carbon dioxide waste you want to get rid of.
Your lungs are very precious. Your body tries to protect them as best it can – it has tiny hairs called cilia inside your nostrils that trap and small bits of dust and some microbes. Anything that doesn’t get trapped there can get stuck in the mucus on the inside of your trachea. There are lots of things you can do to keep your lungs healthy. The most important one is to exercise every day. This makes the muscles around your lungs work harder and makes your lungs ‘fitter’! It’s a very bad idea to breathe in things that can harm your lungs, like smoke, chemicals or things like glue. If you are using glue or if your parents are using things like paint or chemical cleaners at home, remember to open a window and get as much fresh air into the room as possible.
Normally you don’t have to think about breathing because it is an involuntary function. Breathing happens even if you don’t think about it! It is a very strong function, if you try to hold your breath, when the oxygen in the air has run out, your body will make you take a breath! Sometimes people have problems with their lungs that can make it difficult for them to breathe. If you have asthma, there can be times when the tubes in your lungs get clogged up with mucus or tighten up. Your doctor can usually give you something to make this better though. The best advice though is to do the best you can for your lungs, especially if you have a condition like asthma….don’t smoke! Remember:
Be smart – don’t start!
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