When you swallow, a piece of cartilage called the epiglottis closes off the trachea, or windpipe, to prevent food from obstructing your airway, according to About.com. The epiglottis flap normally rests in a slightly upright position above the larynx, or voice box. The epiglottis temporarily folds over the larynx opening as food or beverages enter the throat, protecting the trachea and lungs, MedlinePlus states.Continue Reading
Food or small objects can accidentally enter the windpipe, especially if a person laughs or inhales while eating, according to HowStuffWorks. In most cases, food completely bypasses the respiratory system and continues down the digestive tract by entering the esophagus.
A blocked airway may interfere with healthy breathing, causing symptoms ranging from wheezing and choking to loss of consciousness and permanent brain damage, says MedlinePlus. Parents are discouraged from giving babies and toddlers small toy pieces or foods because these objects can become choking hazards. Physicians are often able to remove objects stuck in the trachea using medical instruments, but in urgent situations, they may need to insert a breathing tube or perform a tracheostomy by making a surgical incision in the neck.
The epiglottis is not invulnerable. Prior to the widespread use of influenza vaccines, many young children suffered from bacterial infections in this area, according to About.com. A condition known as epiglottitis can cause uncomfortable inflammation, making it difficult to breathe and preventing the body from circulating oxygen.Learn more about Human Anatomy
The uvula is the dangling appendage visible at the back of the throat and the epiglottis is a cartilage flap within the throat. Situated behind the tongue and before the larynx, the usually upright epiglottis folds down to block the windpipe when a person swallows. This prevents swallowed items, such as food and drinks, from entering the lungs, directing them instead to the stomach.Full Answer >
The anatomy of the upper airway consists of the pharynx and the nasal cavities, although some definitions also include the larynx and trachea. The pharynx is further divided into the nasopharynx, oropharynx, and laryngopharynx.Full Answer >
The main function of the throat is to act as a pathway for food that links the mouth, nose, esophagus and trachea. It plays a vital role in digestion and ensures that food enters the esophagus instead of the trachea.Full Answer >
The trachea is a respiratory pathway that funnels air towards the lungs, while the esophagus is a digestive organ that carries food to the stomach, according to HowStuffWorks. Food passing through the digestive tract to the esophagus can accidentally enter the trachea, making the airway feel blocked. As a preventive measure, a flap of flexible tissue, known as the epiglottis, covers the trachea opening when food is swallowed.Full Answer >