Acute epiglottitis in adults may follow an unpredictable clinical course, complicated by acute airway obstruction. Our experience with this disease was evaluated by looking at yearly incidence, seasonal occurrence, and clinical variables of both intubated and conservatively managed patients. In our series of 17 cases from 1987 through 1990, 16 occurred in 1988 and 1989. Ten of 17 cases occurred during the summer months. The two patients who developed stridor went on to require intubation and tracheotomy.

Statistical analysis of our data revealed that, in adult acute epiglottitis, stridor is a strong predictor of airway obstruction. A significant summer seasonal predominance was seen, as well as a suggestion of an epidemic in 1988 and 1989.