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.Know More
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
According to MedlinePlus, the epiglottis is a flap of skin that prevents food and drink from going down the windpipe and into the lungs. It's located behind the tongue and in front of the voice box, or larynx.Full Answer >
According to WebMD, the windpipe can stay open while still being able to bend because of its unique composition. The windpipe is made of around 20 cartilage rings with connective tissue and muscle at the back of each ring.Full Answer >
The function of the cartilaginous rings of the trachea is to stabilize the trachea and keep it rigid while allowing the trachea to expand and lengthen when the person breathes. If the trachea was not supported in this way, it would simply collapse because of the pressure of the chest. There are between 16 and 20 cartilaginous rings in an average trachea.Full Answer >
The internal nares serve as a filter for the respiration system, keeping particles from making it into the trachea and the lungs. In addition to cleaning out the air, the internal nares also provide warmth and moisture to the air as it makes its way to the lungs.Full Answer >