Defensive Mechanisms of the Upper Airways

  • John Widdicombe
Part of the Ettore Majorana International Science Series book series (EMISS, volume 6)


In healthy conditions, the upper respiratory tract (larynx, pharynx and nose, possibly also the mouth) has a double defensive role: it conditions the inspired air, humidifying and usually warming it, and it contrives to separate ingested material from inhaled gas. The efficiency of the latter process depends on the species concerned: in man the pharynx is a common pathway open, except during swallowing, for food and air; animals such as ungulates, which eat and chew more or less continuously, have functionally separate channels for food and air, and can breathe while they swallow; aquatic mammals such as whales have developed anatomically completely separate channels for air and food, so that the upper respiratory tract does not include the pharynx and nose (Negus, 1958).


Nasal Mucosa Vasoactive Intestinal Polypeptide Mucus Secretion Ciliary Beat Frequency Defensive Mechanism 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Widdicombe
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologySt. George’s Hospital Medical SchoolTooting, LondonUK

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