What is the respiratory tract?

The respiratory tract is made up of the parts of the body that help you breathe. There are two main parts: the upper (ear, nose and throat) and lower (windpipe and lungs) respiratory tracts.

The upper respiratory tract is made up of:

  • the nose
  • the sinuses (air-filled cavities that are found inside the cheekbones and forehead)
  • the mouth (including the tonsils – the area at the back of the throat)
  • the pharynx (the part of the throat below the tonsils)
  • the larynx (or voice box, containing the vocal cords and covered by a cartilage flap called the epiglottis).

Together, the pharynx, epiglottis and larynx stop anything apart from air from going into the windpipe (trachea).

The lower respiratory tract is made up of the trachea (windpipe that connects the throat to the lungs) and the lungs which include the:

  • bronchi (the two pipes at the end of the trachea that enter the lungs)
  • bronchioles (small branched airways at the end of the bronchi)
  • alveoli (tiny air sacs at the end of the bronchioles)