Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Diagnostic image of respiratory system

Diagnostic image of respiratory system
beginning of content

Respiratory system

Your respiratory system brings oxygen into your body and helps to remove carbon dioxide. Problems with your respiratory system can reduce the oxygen that reaches your lungs, which can make you unwell.

Parts of the respiratory system

Your respiratory system consists of the:

  • nose
  • pharynx
  • larynx
  • trachea (windpipe)
  • bronchi (branching from the trachea, and leading to smaller bronchioles).
  • lungs

Your lungs are in your chest, protected by your ribcage. You breathe in by contracting your diaphragm, a flat muscle at the base of your chest. This causes the chest to expand, drawing air in.

Air passes into your nose and through the upper airways to reach your lungs.

In your lungs, air sits in small air sacs called alveoli, which are right next to blood vessels. Oxygen travels from your alveoli into your bloodstream, and carbon dioxide travels the other way from your bloodstream into your alveoli. You then breathe it out.

Read more about how your respiratory system works.

Respiratory conditions

Respiratory conditions affect your airways and lungs.

They can be short term (acute) or long-lasting (chronic). Symptoms may include:

Serious respiratory conditions can cause long-term illness or death.

Tips for a healthy respiratory system

To keep your respiratory system (and especially your lungs) healthy:

  • don’t smoke
  • avoid harmful environmental factors such as smoke, dusts and chemicals
  • exercise (check with your doctor first if you have a health condition), preferably away from busy roads with high air-pollution
  • eat a healthy, vitamin-rich diet
  • drink plenty of water
  • introduce plants into your living spaces
  • practice good hygiene
  • consider having the flu vaccine.

Your doctor may suggest supplements to promote lung health.

Last reviewed: August 2015

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 615 results

Respiratory System | myVMC

The respiratory system includes the nose, lungs and pipe-like organs which connect them enable breathing and removal of waste products like carbon dioxide.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

GenRx Trimethoprim with Sulfamethoxazole DS | myVMC

Trimethoprim with Sulfamethoxazole is used to treat bacterial infections of the skin, genitals, respiratory system and gastrointestinal system.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Whooping Cough (Pertussis) | myVMC

Whooping cough, otherwise known as pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease which affects the respiratory system and produces spasms of coughing that usually end in a high-pitched sounding deep inspiration of air, which is what is referred to as the whoop

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Bronchiectasis | myVMC

Information on the symptoms, treatment and diagnosis of Bronchiectasis.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Lung Cancer (Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Lung) | myVMC

Squamous cell carcinoma of the lung is a common type of lung cancer caused by smoking and asbestos exposure. It occurs in the bronchi or airways.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Bronchodilators | myVMC

Medical information about bronchodilators, bronchodilators drugs and adrenergic bronchodilators

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Chronic Bronchitis | myVMC

Chronic bronchitis is a disease of the lung

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Whooping cough booster at 18 months

The National Immunisation Program has been updated to include a whooping cough (pertussis) booster for children at 18 months of age.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Asthma - Farmer Health | Farmer Health

Asthma is a lung condition which causes the air passages (bronchi) of the lungs to become narrow, making it hard to breathe. There may be swelling of the airways, more mucous being produced and spasms of the airways. Farmers and...

Read more on The National Centre for Farmer Health website

Wheezing in children

A wheeze is a whistling sound that is made as a person breathes. It is mainly heard when the person is breathing out. In most cases wheezing is caused by the sound of air trying to move through the breathing tubes of the lungs when they become narrow or tight. The breathing tubes are often called the airways of the lungs.

Read more on WA Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback