The epiglottis is a flap that attaches to the larynx and protects the glottis, which contains the vocal cords. The epiglottis also contains some taste buds in addition to providing protection.
The epiglottis is comprised of cartilage and is one of nine cartilage structures contained within the body's larynx. When a person is breathing, the epiglottis will point upward, and when a person is swallowing, the epiglottis will turn horizontally. A person's gag reflex is also thought to stem from the upper part of the epiglottis, which is referred to as the glossopharyngeal nerve. Combined with the vagus nerve, this produces a gag and cough.