The epiglottis is flap of cartilage located in the throat behind the tongue and in front of the larynx. The epiglottis is usually upright at rest allowing air to pass into the larynx and lungs. When a person swallows the epiglottis folds backward to cover the entrance of the larynx so food and liquid do not enter the windpipe and lungs. After swallowing the epiglottis returns to its original upright position.
Review Date 2/12/2021
Updated by: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.