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What Is the Conducting Zone?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The conducting zone is the part of the airway responsible for moving air into the lungs while removing particulates. It receives air from the nose and mouth, which filter and warm it, before routing it to the respiratory zone, where actual gas exchange takes place. In this process, the oxygen in the air is traded with carbon dioxide from the blood, re-oxygenating the blood so it can circulate back through the body. Each part of the airway performs essential functions, and can be vulnerable to different kinds of medical problems.

This area of the respiratory tract starts at the trachea and moves into the bronchi, the branching structures that deliver air into the lungs. They break up into individual bronchioles, at which point the air passes into the respiratory zone. The tissues in the conducting zone are lined with small hair known as cilia which beat upwards to force particulate materials up and out of the airways. Additionally, mucus-producing cells create a layer of mucus to trap particles so they can be more easily snagged and removed by the cilia.

Two separate functions are performed by the conducting zone. One is additional filtration of the air. Organisms could infect the lungs or air passages, potentially creating a serious problem for the patient. Most can be trapped and removed in this area, reducing the chances that someone will develop an infection and keeping the airways clear. Any remaining organisms may not be present in large enough numbers to grow and spread, or can be mopped up by the immune system.

Particles in the air can also potentially create issues. They may irritate the airways and could trigger allergic responses, or become embedded and potentially create lesions. Long-term exposure to certain particulates can also contribute to the development of cancer in the lungs and respiratory tract. The conducting zone works to keep the air clean and clear so people can breathe safely.

Additionally, it allows air to pass into the lungs, maintaining a steady supply of oxygen for the blood, while also routing waste products upon exhalation. The conducting zone coordinates with the rest of the respiratory tract to keep the patient’s blood oxygenated. This includes working with the digestive tract to control the esophagus and trachea to reduce the risk of inhaling food products or swallowing air. Muscle control, automatic responses, and nerve signaling all play a role in keeping the respiratory and digestive tracts working smoothly.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Markerrag — On Apr 30, 2014

@Terrificli -- a great way to deal with pollen and other particles without resulting to medicines has to wash out your sinus passages with saltwater. There are a lot of kids available at your local pharmacy or online that don't cost much and are very effective. If you suffer from allergies, hay fever or other conditions brought on by pollen, try the saltwater treatment and you will likely be amazed by the results.

By Terrificli — On Apr 30, 2014

This discussion goes a long way toward explaining why allergies are such a problem. A lot of pollen in the air can overwhelm the conducting zone's ability to remove particles and people with allergies are then aggravated by the pollen they take in while breathing. Sneezing and all sorts of problems result.

Short of taking a bunch of allergy medicines, what are some effective ways to deal with that particular problem?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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