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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 4/12/2015

Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.