We treated four adults whose upper airway was compromised due to acute epiglottitis. We also reviewed the English literature for all reports of this condition in adults (18 years and older). Among the 158 cases, the infectious etiology was identified in 29 (H. influenzae 20, Streptococcus pneumoniae six, H. parainfluenzae two, Streptococcus pyogenes one). In the remaining cases, the etiology was uncertain. Bacteremia was documented in 23/32 patients (71.9%), but extra-epiglottic infections were strikingly rare (X = six). The clinical manifestations were sore throat (100%), fever (88%), dyspnea (78%), dysphagia (76%), anterior neck cellulitis or tenderness (27%), hoarseness (21%), pharyngitis (20%) and anterior cervical lymphadenopathy (9%). Complete airway obstruction ensued in 23 out of the 119 subjects (18.3%) who had respiratory difficulty. Overall mortality rate was 17.6% but it was 6.4% among the patients who were semi-electively tracheostomized or endotracheally intubated. These findings illustrate that antibiotics therapy active against H. influenzae is required in the treatment of acute epiglottitis in adults. Additionally, airway patency should be established when inspiratory stridor appears assuring uncomplicated recovery.