I was 2 years old and at my grandmother’s house, where my cousins were having a blast trying to uncover the plastic Easter egg my grandmother had actually hid. You see, within the eggs to be quarters, dimes, and also nickels. And, if you to be lucky, you would stumble ~ above big plastic eggs, which had dollar bills within them. But, being two, i wasn"t yes, really able to participate. The didn"t avoid me, though. Ns stumbled about on mine stubby legs and also happened ~ above a plastic egg, inside which were a quarter and a nickel.

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Naturally, i scooped the end the adjust and shoved lock in mine mouth.

The next couple of minutes were type of chaotic, what with me throttle and turning blue, slipping slowly into unconsciousness, while mine grandmother screamed at the 9-1-1 operator to make the ambulance drive faster and my mother tried to perform the Heimlich ~ above my little body to no avail. They realized through horror the the ambulance wasn’t going to do it in time. My dad—thinking fast, or not at all—pried my mouth open and also stuck his fingers down my throat. Pretty far, follow to my mother. He controlled to drag the coins up the end of mine throat and out of mine mouth, which was very lucky, as he had actually a much much better chance of pushing them down also further and sealing my fate. The paramedics arrived part minutes later and also declared me A-OK. That day left me through a cool story to tell 27 year later and also my parents v a healthy are afraid of coin currency.

Why did ns tell girlfriend this story? due to the fact that this is a great example that the pharyngeal reflex, or gag reflex, which your body employs to prevent unwanted things (such together coins) indigenous entering the lungs. The digestive system and upper respiratory mechanism share countless of the very same structures, therefore to do sure every little thing goes whereby it’s claimed to, the human body has particular vanguards in place. Let’s take it a look in ~ them!

Oral Cavity

Image from person Anatomy Atlas.

We’re every pretty acquainted with this structure. The oral cavity is the within of the mouth, an oval-shaped cavity situated anteriorly come the pharynx at the begin of the alimentary canal. The prior of the cavity is tied by the inner surface ar of the lips and also cheeks come the gingiva (gums) and teeth. The cavity floor is identified mostly by the tongue and also the roof is formed by the hard and soft palates.

Food is masticated (chewed) in this cavity by the teeth and also tongue, combined with saliva containing enzymes to help breakdown carbohydrates. The mass developed by this process is referred to as a bolus, which is then swallowed.The dental cavity is likewise an airway for the respiratory tract system.


The pharynx is a huge musculomembranous pipe that functions in both the respiratory tract system and also the digestive system. The is made up of 3 sections:

1. Nasopharynx

Image fromHuman Anatomy Atlas.

This part of the pharynx begins at the ago of the sleep cavity, located behind the nose and above the soft palate. Unequal the other two parts of the pharynx, the nasopharynx remains open up all the time. On every lateral wall surface is the pharyngeal opening of the Eustachian (auditory) tube. The nasopharynx features as an airway in the respiratory tract system. Also contained in ~ the nasopharynx are the adenoids, or pharyngeal tonsils.

2. Oropharynx

Image fromHuman Anatomy Atlas.

The oropharynx is the middle part of the pharynx, working v both the respiratory and digestive systems. It opens up anteriorly in the mouth and extends from the soft palate to the hyoid. In each lateral wall is a palatine tonsil; additionally in this region are the sublingual tonsils, which space under the tongue. The oropharynx attributes as one airway and also as component of the alimentary canal.

3. Laryngopharynx

Image fromHuman Anatomy Atlas.

This is whereby my near-death experience can have gone either way. The laryngopharynx is the posteriormost inferior region of the pharynx, reaching from the hyoid to the lower border that the cricoid cartilage; it’s the location where the respiratory and digestive equipment diverge.

The rear of the laryngopharynx i do not care the esophagus and continues right into the cradle tract, when the former of the laryngopharynx merges with the enntrance gate of the larynx. The epiglottis, a structure in the laryngeal skeleton, helps straight food toward the esophagus, avoiding food and also liquids (and coins) indigenous entering the trachea.


Image fromHuman Anatomy Atlas.

I have actually a love/hate connection with the epiglottis. On the one hand, i think its function in the respiratory system is fascinating, and I have it to thank for do the efforts to save the coins from entering mine lungs; on the other, ns loathe it for all the extra job-related it make me carry out in my college grammars course. If ns hear the indigenous “glottal stop” ever before again, I will certainly not it is in responsible because that my actions.

The epiglottis is a leaf-shaped cartilaginous structure that is component of the laryngeal skeleton. It’s commonly directed upward towards the pharynx, choose an open up door through which air overcome to the trachea. During swallowing, it stays clear of entry to the larynx—closing the door, so to speak—to protect against food, liquid, and also saliva (and coins) native entering the trachea.

Video footage from A&P 6.

Things are slightly various when it comes to the stoppage of waiting in speech. For example, you have tendency to create glottal stop in indigenous that finish int+vowel+n. The word “button” sounds like “butt-n” once spoken—you don’t often tend to vocalize the vowel due to the fact that the vocal cords close sharply and no air is passed.

Also, if you’ve ever swallowed the not correct way, you’ve proficient that rapid panic and also awful seizing in her chest. This is the pharyngeal reflex, or gag reflex, exhilaration to expel every little thing you swallowed before it can go into the lungs. Periodically the reflex is really sensitive, and also even by chance pushing her toothbrush too much can collection it off! your body very much doesn’t want you to asphyxiate; ns wish two-year-old me had received that memo.

See more: What And Where Is The Micturition Reflex Center Is Located In The

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