View of the larynx from behind. The epiglottis is the structure at the top of the image.
|Precursor||Fourth pharyngeal arch|
|Function||Prevent food from entering the respiratory tract.|
The epiglottis is a leaf-shaped flap in the throat that prevents food from entering the windpipe and the lungs. It stands open during breathing, allowing air into the larynx. During swallowing, it closes to prevent aspiration of food into the lungs, forcing the swallowed liquids or food to go along the esophagus toward the stomach instead. It is thus the valve that diverts passage to either the trachea or the esophagus.
The epiglottis may be inflamed in a condition called epiglottitis, which is most commonly due to the vaccine-preventable bacteria Haemophilus influenzae. Dysfunction may cause the inhalation of food, called aspiration, which may lead to pneumonia or airway obstruction. The epiglottis is also an important landmark for intubation.