Altitude Safety Essay

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Changes in altitude have a profound effect on the human body. The body attempts to maintain a state of homeostasis or balance to ensure the optimal operating environment for its complex chemical systems. Any change from this homeostasis is a change away from the optimal operating environment. The body attempts to correct this imbalance. One such imbalance is the effect of increasing altitude on the body’s ability to provide adequate oxygen to be utilized in cellular respiration. With an increase in elevation, a typical occurrence when climbing mountains, the body is forced to respond in various ways to the changes in external environment. Foremost of these changes is diminished ability to obtain oxygen from the atmosphere. If the…show more content…
At the base of the pharynx are two openings. One, the esophagus, leads to the digestive system while the other, the glottis, leads to the lungs. The epiglottis covers the glottis when swallowing so that food does not enter the lungs. When the epiglottis is not covering the opening to the lungs air may pass freely into and out of the trachea. The trachea sometimes called the “windpipe” branches into two bronchi, which in turn lead to a lung. Once in the lung the bronchi branch many times into smaller bronchioles, which eventually terminate in small sacs called alveoli. It is in the alveoli that the actual transfer of oxygen to the blood takes place. The alveoli are shaped like inflated sacs and exchange gas through a membrane. The passage of oxygen into the blood and carbon dioxide out of the blood is dependent on three major factors: 1) the partial pressure of the gases, 2) the area of the pulmonary surface, and 3) the thickness of the membrane (Gerking, 1969). The membranes in the alveoli provide large surface areas for the free exchange of gasses. The typical thickness of the pulmonary membrane is less than the thickness of a red blood cell. The pulmonary surface and the thickness of the alveolar membranes are not directly affected related to altitude and affects gas transfer in the alveoli. GAS TRANSFER To understand gas transfer it is important to first understand something about the behavior of gases. Each gas in our atmosphere exerts its
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