Chills – Common symptoms, causes and treatment

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Chills are a shiver or tremor-accompanied sensation of coldness that is not usually caused due to a cold environment. Cold exposure, fear and anxiety are a few causes of chills.

What are chills? 

Chills are a sensation of coldness that occur with or without fever. Following exposure to a cold environment, chills frequently develop without a fever. In general, any illness that may cause fever also causes chills and vice versa. 

Chills and fever are typical signs of influenza infection. Experiencing cold weather can give chills. Hypothermia, which can cause severe harm, can be brought on by prolonged or continuous exposure to cold. The same factors that lead to chills generally also result in pregnant chills.

Causes of chills 


Getting the chills is frequently an early sign of becoming sick from a virus or bacteria. Substances released from invading pathogens or one’s own immune system’s defence cells cause muscular trembling.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 symptoms include chills and persistent shaking accompanied by chills.

The sensation of feeling chilly while the body is burning up is caused by the chills, which frequently precede a fever. One can even experience chills without a fever because, often, they appear at the beginning of an illness. When a person has a virus, the chills usually occur first, followed by a fever and body ache.

After a few days of feeling achy and having other cold symptoms, consult a healthcare provider when the chills worsen.

Chills can result from the following infections.

  • Viral or bacterial gastroenteritis
  • Pneumonia, a regular cold and an ear infection
  • Mononucleosis virus infection
  • Infection of the spinal cord, meningitis and inflammation of the brain’s outer layer
  • Bladder infection due to strep throat (UTI)
  • Malaria.

Fever and chills are frequently present together, and both might be signs of illnesses. The body temperature rises in response to an infection, which results in a fever.


  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Feeling cold
  • Being unsteady
  • Nauseating feeling
  • Palpitations (irregular, fast heartbeat) 
  • An ache in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing 

Insufficient red blood cells prevent the body from delivering oxygen to the tissues, which is known as anaemia. Nearly every bodily function, including temperature control, is impacted by this. 

Anaemia can have various reasons, including iron deficiency issues (e.g., losing blood from colon cancer or heavy menstrual cycles). Since pregnant women have greater nutritional needs than non-pregnant women, anaemia is more common in women than in males and can be a severe issue.


Insufficient thyroid hormone production by the thyroid gland results in hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism patients may be particularly sensitive to cold weather. This is more likely to result in chills.


The presence of chills is frequently a sign of a fever from several sources and can indicate an increase in temperature. This is more prevalent in young children, who are more prone to fevers, even from small diseases. 

Chills are a useful sign of a developing fever when a person doesn’t feel hot or feverish. The CDC states that further symptoms, in that case, would be a hot face and watery eyes. 


Chills and flu-like symptoms are common side effects of some drugs. Any severe medication allergy, regardless of drug type, might cause chills. 

Antibiotics frequently cause problems. It can be challenging to distinguish between chills brought on by an infection and chills due to a medical reaction.

Chemotherapy, infusions of blood or blood products and even contrast chemicals used in imaging examinations have all been linked to these reactions. They may also occur on stopping the medicine. Additionally, withdrawal symptoms from drugs, especially those like some antidepressants or opioids, might include chills.


Chills are primarily influenced by the brain and sympathetic nervous system. In these situations, the chills are simply a symptom of a peak subjective emotional response, which is frequently a positive one, so there is no reason to be concerned.

Chills might also result from nervousness or fear. The autonomic nervous system, or part of the neurological system that controls automatic responses, such as the pumping of the heart and the expanding or narrowing of the blood vessels, triggers this reaction. 

National Institute of Mental Health states chills as one symptom of a panic attack, which is defined as excessive fear and includes other symptoms such as a racing or pounding heart, sweating, chest pain or trouble breathing.

These panic attacks might seem like heart attacks and can strike at any time, even if there is no obvious cause. Recurrent panic episodes can be treated with psychotherapy and specific drugs.

Chills can result from exposure to cold temperatures as muscles contract and relax to warm the body.

Low blood sugar 

Chills are another symptom of low blood sugar, which is risky for Diabetics. Low blood sugar can produce both minor symptoms, like chills and trembling, as well as more severe ones, such as visual issues and seizures, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Chills symptoms 

The following symptoms frequently coexist with chills.

  • Anxiety 
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Dry skin 

Other symptoms of illness like 

Chills can occasionally signal a severe or life-threatening ailment. If symptoms last longer than two days, get immediate medical attention.

Diagnosing chills 

A physician can assist in identifying the underlying reason for persistent chills. For this, they can

Record a person’s blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate and temperature to check their vital signs.

A thorough medical history that includes any previous illnesses, travel, prescription drugs and other medical care.

Perform a physical examination, paying particular attention to the eyes, ears, nose, throat, neck and stomach. 

Inquire about any additional symptoms, such as a cough, digestive issues, rashes or other worries.

If a certain underlying illness is suspected, doctors may order additional testing like a chest X-ray, blood tests and urine cultures.

Testing is the only method to know for sure if someone has COVID-19. However, due to the restricted availability of these tests, the CDC does not currently advise that everyone get tested.

Treatment for chills 

Chills are treated by treating the underlying cause. For example, people in cold environments should find a warmer setting or wear more protective clothes.

Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics for specific bacterial infections like UTIs or strep throat.

Viral infections can be treated using antiviral drugs. People who have fungal infections can benefit from antifungal medications.

Chills and other common illnesses symptoms, such as the flu or a cold, can be treated with over-the-counter drugs. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are two of these drugs.

Medications like levothyroxine are typically required for thyroid hormone replacement in hypothyroidism patients. Doctors might also advise dietary changes.

Steroids may be required by those with (Irritable Bowel Disease) IBD, or other inflammatory diseases. Steroids can aid in the relief of inflammation and its symptoms. Drugs that inhibit the immune system can also be advantageous.

A minor infection that causes chills can be treated at home with bed rest, plenty of water and over-the-counter painkillers. It’s important to bundle up and stay warm if the chills are uncomfortable. 

People with Diabetes should review the risks and potential symptoms of low blood sugar with their healthcare provider. When this illness is treated, the chills caused due to other underlying health issues will disappear.

Complications of chills 

Chills can sometimes be a symptom of severe or life-threatening diseases. These conditions have the potential to lead to consequences, such as

  • Extremely high fevers that result in organ failure
  • Shock
  • Coma
  • Brain damage. 

They can also cause dehydration due to decreased fluid intake, fever and increased sweating.

The risk of problems might be decreased by adhering to the treatment plan.

When to see a doctor? 

Usually, chills are not too severe. They typically don’t correspond to major medical conditions.

  • Even without a temperature, one can still have the chills.
  • Persistent sore throat, cold or cough.
  • Physical pain without any cause.
  • Excessive nocturnal sweats.
  • The low-grade fever either won’t go away or seems to recur.
  • Skin or hair changes, such as hair loss.
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason.
  • Tiredness even after adequate sleep.
  • Diarrhoea or constipation despite changing the diet.

Home remedies for chills 


The effectiveness of treatment typically depends on whether the fever and chills have subsided. One need not consult a doctor if there is only a low fever and no other troubling symptoms. Take additional naps and consume lots of water or juice. 

Avoid using heavy clothing or a heavy blanket to keep warm. Instead, use something lightweight. Taking a cold shower or warm shower might also help lower fever. The chills can, however, be brought on by cold water.

OTC drugs, including aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen, help lower fever and treat chills.

Take the drug exactly as prescribed. Ibuprofen and aspirin will both lessen inflammation and fever. Although it will lower fever, acetaminophen won’t reduce inflammation. 

If not taken as prescribed, acetaminophen can harm the liver, and long-term ibuprofen use can harm the kidneys and the stomach.


The best course of action for a child with chills and fever will depend on their age, temperature and any additional symptoms. 

Generally, if the child has a temperature of between 100°F and 102°F and is in discomfort, it is advisable to give acetaminophen tablets or liquid. Pay attention to the dosage recommendations on the packaging.

Never cover feverish kids with several blankets or layers of clothing. They should wear light clothing and be given water or other liquids to stay hydrated.

Due to the possibility of Reye’s syndrome, never administer aspirin to children under the age of 18. Children who take aspirin to treat a viral illness may develop Reye’s syndrome, a rare but dangerous condition.


Chills describe how cold a person feels after being in a cold environment. The term can also be used to describe a period of shivering and feeling cold.

Shivering or chills might appear at the beginning of an infection. They are most frequently linked to fevers. Chills are a significant sign of some illnesses, including malaria. 

Rapid muscular relaxation and contraction are the causes of chills. They are how the body generates heat when it is cold. Treatment for chills focuses on treating the cause.


What does having chills without a fever mean? 

When exposed to a cold environment, one may have chills without fever. The ability to tolerate chilly temperatures can also be compromised in hypothyroidism patients.

What is the best medicine for chills? 

The underlying reason for chills determines the treatment. The doctor might prescribe antibiotics to treat the symptoms and cure specific bacterial illnesses. The best method to treat chills is to speak with a doctor.

How long do chills last? 

Chest pain, a sore throat, a cough, a headache, exhaustion and muscular aches are common viral infection symptoms in addition to chills. It will typically self-limit and go away in two weeks. One should improve their fluid intake and obtain enough sleep.

When should I be concerned about chills? 

The presence of chills may indicate hypothermia or a severe or life-threatening infection. If the symptoms last more than two days or are a cause for concern, get immediate medical help or talk to a doctor about them. Babies and small children with a fever might develop a severe case rapidly.

How to decrease fever with chills?

One can reduce fever associated with chills by,
1· Lying down on a thin sheet rather than a thick blanket. This helps raise the body temperature during sleep. 
2· Using thermostat.
3· Staying well-hydrated.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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