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Trachea Definition: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rachel Torrens
In this lesson, learn all about an important, but often overlooked body part: the trachea. We will review the outer and inner structure, the function and how to palpate the trachea.

Touching Your Trachea

Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Whether you knew it or not, you just successfully used your trachea. The trachea is a tube-like structure that allows the air you breathe in through your mouth and nose to travel to your lungs. The trachea begins just under your voice box and travels down to your breastbone, which for an adult is about four inches in length. One of the coolest things about the trachea is that you can feel for it yourself!

Look in a mirror. Between your two collarbones you should see a little dip. Take one fingertip and press gently into that small dip. As you apply pressure, you will quickly feel something firmer than your skin, but softer than bone. That's because the trachea is made from cartilage, a flexible form of tissue, just like your ear. You have just successfully touched your trachea!

To feel the trachea you put one fingertip in the dip between the collarbones then press gently.
Collarbone image

Structure of the Trachea

The trachea is tube-like, so this means there are two sides to the trachea. The structure of the outside is different from the inside.

Outside Structure

Take another feel, this time moving up and down along the trachea. It should feel a little bumpy, like the bendy bit of a straw you get at a restaurant. This is because the cartilage is arranged in c-shaped rings down the entire length of the trachea. These c-shaped cartilage rings give the trachea its tube-like structure.

The cartilage rings are c-shaped, with the open end of the c pointing towards the back of the trachea.
Trachea image

The cartilage rings are connected by elastic tissue. So, while the trachea is a firm, rigid tube, it has the ability to stretch and lengthen. Again, think of a bendable straw. You can pull the bendy bit and make the straw longer, and then push it back together to shorten it. This structure makes the trachea strong yet flexible.

Inside Structure

The inside of the trachea is smooth and lined with cells that that produce mucus, which are covered with tiny little hairs called cilia. The hairs help trap unwanted objects from entering your lungs, like dust particles.

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