Top Differences Between Breathing and Respiration - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India
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Top Differences Between Breathing and Respiration

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 27 Feb 2016 - 10:30


Breathing and respiration both are essential for living organisms. Many a times, breathing and respiration are mistaken as being the same process, but in fact they are quite different. A closer look at the differences and breathing are as follows:


  • Breathing is a constant process where you breathe in and out continuously during the day. It is a process of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide.
  • It is a physical process
  • It is a process of taking oxygen into lungs
  • Breathing is broken down into two stages namely; ventilation and gas exchange. Ventilation is the movement of air to and fro the lungs and gas exchange is the absorption of oxygen from the lungs where carbon dioxide is released
  • It is a voluntary action
  • It can be controlled. Breaths can be fast and deep or slow.


  • Respiration is a process where the body breaks down the oxygen, to distribute it to the cells in the body, which use oxygen. This is a part of metabolic process also called as catabolic process of a cellular activity where energy is released while carbon dioxide and water are produced.
  • It is a chemical process
  •  It is a process of taking oxygen from the lungs into the blood stream or to the cells.
  • Respiration involves only one process. It produces energy and expels carbon dioxide and H2O in the blood stream or cells.
  • It is an involuntary action
  • Respiration cannot be controlled like breathing because it takes place in the cells and tissues.

Even though both these processes are strongly connected (i.e. breathing is required to supply cells with the oxygen, they need for respiration and remove the carbon dioxide, produced by the cells) they are totally two different concepts.

What triggers breathing condition?

Breathing problem is one of the main reasons for visiting a hospital and emergency department. It is most likely to be caused by any of the following conditions mentioned below:

  • Asthma attack
  • Pneumonia (lung inflammation)
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Heart problems like heart attack, chest pain or heart failure
  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular and fast heart rate)
  • Emotional distress such as anxiety or panic attack
  • Obesity
  • Chronic Obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Anemia
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Lung cancer
  • Allergies such as to mold or pollen

What triggers respiratory conditions?

Respiratory infection is an infection that interferes with normal breathing. As per India’s National Health Profile 2015, there were nearly 3.5m cases of acute respiratory infection (ARI) last year, a 140,000 rise on the previous year and about 30 percent increase since 2010. Although causes of this condition are unclear, a few have been determined including:

  • Asthma: A study lead by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on children of Kamrup district, discovered that out of around 6,000 diagnosed with respiratory diseases, 4 to13% are suffering from asthma.
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Indoor as well as outdoor air pollutants
  • Allergens
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Second hand tobacco smoke
  • Pneumococcus: It can trigger few respiratory illness such as pneumonia
  • Adenoviruses: Adenoviruses consist of over 50 different types of viruses that causes cold and bronchitis
  • Rhinoviruses: These are the source of common cold


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