If you’re reading this, sipping on a cup of coffee and chatting with whomever is sitting next to you all at the same time, you can give some thanks to your epiglottis.

epiglottis sideviewIt’s the thing that is allowing you to swallow, talk, and breathe all at the same time. It’s doing so by knowing just when to open and just when to cover your esophagus. Without your epiglottis, you would probably end up drowning on your cup of coffee because there would be nothing stopping the liquid from going down your windpipe and into your lungs. Three cheers for your epiglottis!!

Epiglottis is also one of those words that is fun to say repeatedly... give it a try. It’s made up of, what’s referred to as elastic cartilage; which is the same stuff in your outer ear and other places in your body that require structure but flexibility, and it’s covered with mucous membrane. Keeping every thing smooth and easy in the swallowing, talking, and breathing department. It’s called the epiglottis because it sits on top of, guess what...the glottis.

epiglottis liveWhen you are breathing, your epiglottis is up or open. Then when you eat or drink, it closes, redirecting food or liquid to your stomach. Of course, occasionally, this mechanism can malfunction and you end up sputtering and choking on what you’ve just swallowed. Your epiglottis is also involved in the gag reflex, which is actually a survival mechanism...even though for people who have a really sensitive gag reflex it might not seem like it. It’s designed to help you expel things that your brain and body decide are harmful and happens because both ends of the epiglottis constrict. Thank goodness.
The next time you reach for something to eat or drink, take a moment to let your epiglottis settle and do its job...and then offer it a round of applause!