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What Is the Trachea?

Located in the neck, the trachea is commonly known as the windpipe which provides a passage for air to enter into the lungs from the nose and mouth. It connects the larynx to the two left and right main bronchi. The trachea is very important for the breathing process because it has the primary function of protecting and maintaining the respiratory airway. Any damage to the trachea is often life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. The trachea also helps divide the air between the two lungs. Only babies can breathe and swallow simultaneously, but for adults the flap epiglottis closes the top part of the trachea connected to the larynx.

The trachea has a bony skeletal cylindrical structure composed of ligaments and cartilage. It begins from the larynx and can run for about 3.9-6.2 inches (10-16 centimeters). The diameter is about 1 inch (2-3 centimeters). The 15 to 20 ‘c’ shaped cartilage rings in the trachea help control air and push objects out of the airway if something gets lodged inside. The ciliated respiratory epithelium that line the trachea trap dust particles and any irritants that may have been breathed in and pushes them out through the throat – through a cough reflex. Most foreign particles are trapped by the mucus along the trachea. The mucus is then pushed upwards to the larynx, after that it reaches the pharynx. At the pharynx, the mucus can either be swallowed and processed in the stomach and later excreted or it can be expelled through coughing and spitting as phlegm.

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