Respiratory System Functions

Respiratory System Functions – an Overview

The respiratory system performs the significant role of supplying the body with oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. This system consists of various components. Each of these components plays an important part in the respiratory system functions.

The following discussion explains what is respiratory system. Read on to find information about how does the respiratory system work. Also learn about its components, interesting facts and respiratory system functions.

Respiratory System Functions

Here are four major functions of respiratory system.

Pulmonary Ventilation

In simple words, pulmonary ventilation is inhalation and exhalation. This is the process of breathing. When we inhale, air travels through the nasal cavity or the mouth into the respiratory tract up to the lungs.

On the other hand, when we exhale, the air travels back from the lungs and out through the nasal cavity. This is one of the most important respiratory functions.Through this, you can maintain a fresh and constant supply of oxygen for the body.

At the same time, it removes carbon dioxide i.e. the byproduct of respiration.

External Respiration

This is the process by which gases travel between the lungs and the blood stream. It supplies oxygen from the lungs to the blood which then carries it to all other parts of the body.

Similarly, carbon dioxide travels from the blood to the lungs for exhalation. In this way, external respiration maintains the levels of oxygen in the blood and removes carbon dioxide promptly.

Internal Respiration

This process involves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the bloodstream and various tissues of the body. In this way, there is a constant supply of fresh oxygen to the body tissues. At the same time, carbon dioxide goes out of the body.


Another of the important functions of respiratory system is olfaction. In simple words, you can call it smelling. Olfactory fibers are present in the nasal cavity which detect smell when air passes through the cavity.

The process of smelling is important for detecting potentially toxic substances. Alternatively, pleasant smells refresh the senses. Therefore, smelling is an important role of respirator system.

Respiratory System Facts

Here are some interesting facts about the respiratory system.

  • The surface area of the lungs is so large that you can compare its size to a tennis court.
  • Lengthwise, all the blood capillaries in the lungs measures up to 1,600 km.
  • The process of respiration produces carbon dioxide and vapors of water as byproducts. The total amount of water that changes to vapors during the whole day equals half a liter.
  • The breathing rate of children and women is fast than those of grown up men.
  • The lungs are the only organs of the body which can float on the surface of water. This is because each lung contains millions of alveoli containing air.
  • People who are habitual of breathing through the mouth can end up with crocked teeth. This is because breathing through the oral cavity can cause the jaws to shrink in size.
  • While at rest, our normal rate of breathing is twelve to fifteen times per minute.
  • Our lungs are not symmetrical. On the other hand, the left lung is smaller in size than the right lung. This is so that the heart can have sufficient room in the chest cavity.

About the Author

Posted by: M. Isaac / Senior writer

A graduate in biological sciences and a PhD scholar (NCBA&E University, Lahore), M. Isaac combines his vast experience with a keen and critical eye to create practical and inherently engaging content on the human body. His background as a researcher and instructor at a secondary school enables him to best understand the needs of the beginner level learners and the amateur readers and educate them about how their body works, and how they can adopt a healthier lifestyle.

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