epiglottis function in digestive system

A high rising epiglottis is a normal anatomical variation, visible during an oral assessment, which does not cause any serious problem apart from a moderate sensation of a foreign body in the throat. It is seen regularly in children than adults and does not need any medical or surgical intervention. So, you would like to know what is the epiglottis function in digestive system?


The epiglottis is basically a trapdoor in your throat. It is an elastic cartilage covered with a mucus membrane situated at the entryway of the larynx (voice box) and the base of the tongue. It is formed like a leaf and guards the entrance of the glottis (the opening between the vocal cords). The epiglottis is among the nine cartilage structures that make up the larynx and it is covered with taste buds. The upper surface area of the epiglottis can be seen through your mouth. What is the function of Epiglottis in the digestive system? What are the issues with Epiglottis and how can are the problems dealt with?

Epiglottis Function

When you swallow food, the epiglottis folds over the glottis to stop liquid and food from going into the trachea (wind pipeline). Thus, food goes right to the esophagus so that one would not get choked. It also serves to produce speech sounds in some languages.

How this works? Two sets of muscles — intrinsic and extrinsic — are accountable for larynx movement. Intrinsic muscles control the vocal cords and speech, while extrinsic muscles manage the laryngeal structure and the folding of the epiglottis. When you breathe and do normal activities, the epiglottis sits in an upright position and permits air to pass through the larynx and into the trachea and lungs.

When you chew food and swallow, the chewed food reaches the vocal cords (throat) and sets off the extrinsic muscles that make the whole larynx move up. When this happens, the epiglottis touches the base of the tongue and blocks the glottis and the food is directed towards the esophagus. When the food hits the epiglottis, the extrinsic muscles unwind and the epiglottis go back to its upright position and the larynx opens.

Animation of Epiglottis Function



Epiglottitis is when your epiglottis gets irritated and inflamed. Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) bacteria is normally the cause of epiglottitis, but it can be brought on by other bacteria or injury. Epiglottitis is thought about a medical emergency situation because it can restrict the air supply to your lungs and children, in particular, can be vulnerable to it. Less common causes of epiglottitis include fungal and viral infections; injury to the throat; and cigarette smoking illegal drugs such as fracture drug and marijuana.


The beginning of epiglottitis is fast, however it can likewise use up to a couple of days to establish in adults and older children. Symptoms of epiglottitis include problem breathing and swallowing; a severe sore throat; extreme drooling; a high temperature level of 38ºC (100.4 ºF) or above; a hoarse voice; high pitched breathing.

Breathing may improve when you lean forward. An inflamed epiglottis is extremely serious since it can limit oxygen supply to your lungs.

When to See a Doctor

Dial 911 immediately if you think you or your child has epiglottitis.

While awaiting an ambulance, keep one’s cool. If you have a child who has epiglottitis do not put anything in his/her mouth or attempt to analyze the mouth. DO NOT lay the child on his/her back due to the fact that this could make the symptoms even worse.

Epiglottitis Treatments

Epiglottitis is treated in the medical facility by protecting your air passage with an oxygen mask or an oxygen tube placed through your mouth into the trachea. In extreme emergency cases, a tracheostomy is carried out permitting oxygen to enter the lungs and bypassing the epiglottis by positioning a cut on the front of the trachea and inserting an oxygen tube. As soon as the airways are working, a tube is threaded through the nose and into the windpipe to help you breathe.

You or your child will get liquids fed through an IV drip, until you or your child is able to swallow. When you or your child is breathing, a broad spectrum of prescription antibiotics will be injected into you and when the infection is recognized, a certain antibiotic will be used to deal with the exact infection. Antibiotics are administered for several days, and most adults and children recuperate in 5 to seven days from epiglottitis if the treatment is prompt.

Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) bacteria is usually the cause of epiglottitis and a vaccination considering that the 1990s has been readily available; it’s the best method to avoid epiglottitis.

Last modified: December 16, 2017


The Author

Reyus Mammadli

As a healthy lifestyle advisor I try to guide individuals in becoming more aware of living well and healthy through a series of proactive and preventive measures, disease prevention steps, recovery after illness or medical procedures.

Education: Bachelor Degree of Medical Equipment and Electronics.

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