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Structural and functional development in airways throughout childhood: Children are not small adults.

Children are not small adults and this fact is particularly true when we consider the respiratory tract. The anatomic peculiarities of the upper airway make infants preferential nasal breathers between 2 and 6 months of life. The pediatric larynx has a more complex shape than previously believed, with the narrowest point located anatomically at the subglottic level and functionally at the cricoid cartilage. Alveolarization of the distal airways starts conventionally at 36-37 weeks of gestation, but occurs mainly after birth, continuing until adolescence. The pediatric chest wall has unique features that are particularly pronounced in infants. Neonates, infants, and toddlers have a higher metabolic rate, and consequently, their oxygen consumption at rest is more than double that of adults. The main anatomical and functional differences between pediatric and adult airways contribute to the understanding of various respiratory symptoms and disease conditions in childhood. Knowing the peculiarities of pediatric airways is helpful in the prevention, management, and treatment of acute and chronic diseases of the respiratory tract. Developmental modifications in the structure of the respiratory tract, in addition to immunological and neurological maturation, should be taken into consideration during childhood.

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