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 about Human Anatomy
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 upper half of the respiratory system consists of the nasal cavity, larynx and pharynx, while the lower half consists of the trachea, bronchi and lungs. The upper part of the system conducts gases, while the lower part is responsible for gas exchange.Full Answer >
The tissue that lines the trachea is epithelial tissue. Epithelial tissues line the cavities and flat surfaces inside the human body. The epithelial tissue is one of the four tissue types found within the human body.Full Answer >