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Top Questions About Health

Q: What keeps food from going into our lungs and air from going into our stomach?

From Okaydo in Des Moines, IA - 6th grade

A: Food goes down the esophagus to your stomach. Air goes down the trachea to your lungs. These two pipes share an opening at the back of your throat. The epiglottis moves back and forth (like a door) to prevent food from going into our lungs and air into our stomach. If you are talking and eating, the epiglottis does not close in time and a piece of food can go down the trachea. Most of the time, you cough and the food will come back up and go down the esophagus. If the food has gone too far, it can block the airway and you will begin choking. This is why you should not eat and talk.
Question answered by: Symbi Scientist, Joy Jackson


Q: Why are sports always so dangerous due to injuries?

From Aaron in Des Moines, IA - 8th grade

A: Sports in America are dangerous due to injuries because while enjoying the sport, the person can fall or someone can hit him/her and he/she can have brian or spinal cord damages (which can possibly cause the brain and/or nervous system to function improperly), tear ligaments and break bones. All of these things can turn a fun, enjoyable time into an injury, sometimes making it impossible for the person to ever play a sport again.
Question answered by: Symbi Scientist, Joy Jackson


Q: Can we live with only one lung?

From Tre in Des Moines, IA - 6th grade

A: It is possible to live with one lung, and there are many people who for various reasons have only one functioning lung, or have had part of a lung removed (this is a common medical procedure for people with lung cancer). With one lung, respiratory function (or how well you can breath and get oxygen to your body) is reduced, making many physical tasks more difficult.
Question answered by: Symbi Scientist, Tim Mitchell


Q: How many pounds of force does it take to penetrate your skin?

From Luis in Des Moines, IA - 6th grade

A: That depends on a lot of things, the most important one being what you're trying to penetrate it with. Think of a balloon: it probably won't break if you slap it with the palm of your hand, no matter how hard you hit, but it'll pop easily if you poke it with a needle. That's because when you use a needle, all the force gets put on one spot on the balloon, while when you use your hand, the force gets spread out over the entire area where your hand and the balloon touch each other. Because it's important to know how much area a force gets applied to when figuring out whether it will break or not, instead of talking about force, we usually talk about pressure - force divided by area. Also, skin is actually made up of three layers: the top one that we all see, called the epidermis; one beneath it, called the dermis, which holds things like blood vessels, sweat glands, and hair follicles; and the lowest layer, called the hypodermis, which holds fat to serve as insulation and padding for the rest of the body. Because these three layers are made of very different materials, it would take different amounts of pressure to break through each one of them. Unfortunately, the sort of experiment we would have to do to figure out much pressure it takes to penetrate skin is very difficult to do, because skin is usually attached to people or animals who would rather not have their skin penetrated, so coming up with a quantitative measurement (one using specific numbers) would be hard here. However, we can try to make a qualitative observation (no numbers): every time someone pricks themselves while sewing, that's breaking their skin, using only the force generated by their fingers. Experiment for yourself to see how much force your fingers alone can generate, and you'll be able to get a better idea of how fragile our skin really is.
Question answered by: Symbi Scientist, Ben Lewis


Q: Why do we get headaches and what can we do to prevent them?

From Kira in Des Moines, IA - 6th grade

A: Headaches can sometimes be caused by stress, not getting proper rest/sleep, bad posture (not sitting all the way up in a chair), not eating properly, and not drinking enough water. Relaxing, getting enough sleep at night, and eating properly are ways to prevent headaches. If you constantly get headaches, see a physician.
Question answered by: Symbi Scientist, Joy Jackson


Q: What is a gallbladder and do all animals have them?

From Jamesey in Des Moines, IA - 6th grade

A: A gallbladder is a small organ in the human body that aids mainly in fat digestion and concentrates bile (water, bile salts, mucus and pigments, fats, inorganic salts, and cholesterol) produced by the liver. It also assists in ridding the body of waste products. Most animals such as deer, bears, and pigs have a gallbladder. A horse is an example of an animal that does not have one.
Question answered by: Symbi Scientist, Joy Jackson


Q: What is the scientific name for the energy in our bodies, and where do we get our strength?

From Kalani in Des Moines, IA - 6th grade

A: Metabolism is a set of reactions that occure in the body and help to produce the energy and the components of protein that make up our muscles for stregth. The molecule most associated with energy in the body is called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). As its name suggests, ATP contains 3 phosphate groups. When one phosphate group gets "cut off" energy is released and used for a variety of functions. ATP can be "remade" after the phosphate groups are cut off for energy.
Question answered by: Symbi Scientists, Brandon Jeffrey and Heather Edwards