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Learn about your chills, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your chills from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Chills Checker

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Your Chills May Also be Known as:
Cold and hot
Cold sweats
Feeling hot and cold
Fever
Feverish
Pneumonia
Shaking
Shivering
Shivers

Chills Symptoms

It's always nice to chill out...unless it is 20 degrees and the clothes you put on in the morning just aren't warm enough. The polar vortex has you shivering, chilled to the bone. If it is cold enough, you might get frostbite. Stay cold enough for long enough and hypothermia will set in. Hypothermia can cause confusion and exhaustion, until you can no longer make rational decisions (like getting yourself to a warmer environment).

Maybe it is the peak of summer. Despite the heat, you are sheltered in bed, wrapped in layers of thick blankets, cold, clammy and trembling with chills. You feel your temperature increasing. The continued trembling increases your temperature until you have a fever. Suddenly, you feel warm and flushed, your heart rate increases, and you find yourself breathing a little faster. Your lack of appetite, joint and muscles aches confirm your suspicion – you have some kind of virus or other infection.

Chills are a normal response to environmental or physical conditions. Chills are also a normal physical response to strong emotions - one that sends a chill down your spine.

Chills Causes Overview

Infection:

  • Whether viral or bacterial, any infection causing fever is also likely to cause symptoms of chills. Chills, in the setting of infection, are part of your body's immune response. The shivering associated with chills requires a lot of energy as your muscles rapidly contract and relax. This energy creates heat, which in turn increases your body temperature until you have a fever. Fever helps to clear the infection.

Hypothyroidism:

  • Alters the way your body regulates temperature. The sluggish metabolism of hypothyroidism can leave you chilled even when everyone around you is comfortably warm.

Hypothermia:

  • Hypothermia is important to recognize in its early stages, when it is most reversible. As your body temperature falls below 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) chill-related shivering helps the body warm up. However, once your body temperature dips below 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit), shivering stops. If you are shivering from the cold, and continuing to get colder and colder, but then the shivering stops, you are headed into danger.

Hypothermia is usually caused by being cold and/or wet, but can also be caused by:

  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Neuromuscular diseases
  • Malnutrition
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Some medications, including anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, opiates and beta blockers (which are used to treat high blood pressure and some heart conditions)

Post-operative:

  • Chills are common after surgery. Most operating rooms are cold, most likely you have a body cavity open to room air, room temperature IV fluids are pumped into your veins, and you've been given general anesthesia which impairs your ability to regulate your body temperature. Under this combination of circumstances, shivering (chills) can occur.

Drug/alcohol withdraw:

  • We might joke about delirium tremens, but if it is you experiencing them, you will realize they are no laughing matter. Delirium tremens can occur during withdraw from alcohol, barbiturates or benzodiazepines. In addition to chills, you might also experience hallucinations, an irregular heart rate and even seizures. This can lead to a medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention

Emotional chills:

  • Emotional chills can be the result of anything that triggers the softer side of your heart and soul - an experience that subjects you to fear, brings you joy, prompts you to wonder in profound ways, causes sadness or presents a shocking loss. Such experiences can alter the firing of your brain's neurotransmitters, and can manifest in your body – sometimes as chills.

Top 9 Chills Causes

  1. 1.Viral (Norovirus) Infection

    Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that leads to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. These viruses cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. When the diarrhea and/or vomiting is severe, dehydration can occur. Symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, dizziness, urinating less frequently and dark urine.

    You can safely treat this condition at home. Make sure you drink plenty of water and fluids (Gatorade, Pediatlyte) to replace what is lost with diarrhea. If symptoms of dehydration occur or you are unable to keep down any liquids, seek care at your primary care physician or an urgent care.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, headache, stomach bloating
    Symptoms that always occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    hidden: gastroenteritis symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    severe abdominal pain, throbbing headache, severe headache, tarry stool
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Panic Disorder

    Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror without true danger. One may feel as if they are losing control or have physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart.

    You should go see your primary care doctor, who can diagnose you by interview. Most people get better with treatment. Therapy can show you how to recognize and change your thinking patterns before they lead to panic. Medication may be beneficial.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, anxiety, abdominal pain (stomach ache), stomach bloating, depressed mood
    Symptoms that always occur with panic disorder:
    anxiety, impaired social or occupational functioning
    Symptoms that never occur with panic disorder:
    agoraphobia
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Symptoms of Menopause

    Menopause is the point in life where your period stops. This happens when the ovaries stop making hormones that keep your cycle going.

    Diagnosis doesn't require a blood test and completed menopause is defined as not having a period for the last 12 months. Treatment of symptoms includes diet and exercise, hormonal and non-hormonal therapies, and OTC medications as symptoms occur.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, vaginal discharge, trouble sleeping, muscle aches, anxiety
    Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause:
    hidden: menarche status: perimenopausal or postmenopausal
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Bacterial Pneumonia

    Bacterial pneumonia is the infection of the lungs with bacteria (as opposed to a fungus or a virus).

    You should go see a doctor within the next day since this diagnosis requires a chest X-ray in addition to a doctor's assessment. Treatment with antibiotics is important to keeping the infection under control, which can become dangerous if it spreads or worsens within the lungs.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, cough, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath
    Symptoms that always occur with bacterial pneumonia:
    cough
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

    Chills Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having chills.

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  5. 5.Influenza

    Influenza, or Flu, is an infection of the airway caused by the flu virus, which passes through the air and enters the body through the nose or mouth. The symptoms are similar to those of a cold, but the flu is usually more serious.

    If your flu-like symptoms are existing for less than 48 hours, it might be helpful to seek care by telephone or in a walk-in-clinic to get a course of oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Most people will get better on their own by drinking lots of fluids and taking an over-the-counter medication such as acetominophen (Tylenol) to help with aches or fever.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, cough, muscle aches
    Symptoms that never occur with influenza:
    headache resulting from a head injury
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  6. 6.Acute Viral Sinusitis

    Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus spaces behind the nose and cheeks. These spaces produce mucus, which drains into the nose. If the nose is swollen or if the mucus does not drain, this can block the sinuses and cause pain or infection.

    You can treat your symptoms at home using ibuprofen (for pain) and Tylenol (for a fever). Antibiotics for this diagnosis are not helpful because this is likely a viral infection.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    headache, cough, sore throat, sinusitis symptoms, muscle aches
    Symptoms that always occur with acute viral sinusitis:
    sinusitis symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with acute viral sinusitis:
    being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  7. 7.Breast Infection (Mastitis)

    Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness of the breast. Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding (lactation mastitis), although sometimes this condition can occur in women who aren't breast-feeding.

    You should visit your primary care physician to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options, such as antibiotics.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, breast pain, fever, chills
    Symptoms that always occur with breast infection (mastitis):
    breast pain, hidden: cardinal sign breast inflammation
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Viral Pneumonia

    Viral pneumonia is inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the lungs due to infection with a virus. Community-acquired pneumonia is the most common type, which is usually acquired in public areas such as at work, school, or grocery store.

    You should see a care provider to be treated and for evaluation of severity of your symptoms. Viral pneumonia is NOT treated with antibiotics, and you may find over-the-counter medications for pain and fever to be helpful.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, cough, shortness of breath, loss of appetite
    Symptoms that never occur with viral pneumonia:
    unexplained bruising
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Epididymitis

    Epididymitis is swelling (inflammation) of the epididymis, a tube that sits on top of the testicle and is involved in making sperm. Most cases of inflammation are due to an infection.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours in order to find out the cause of the infection. If the cause is bacterial, which is common in this condition, antibiotics are prescribed.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, fever, chills, vomiting, pain in one testicle
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

Chills Treatments and Relief

Seek medical care if you have chills and:

  • a fever that does not get better after taking acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.
  • you become confused or can't think straight.
  • frost bite. With progressive cold injury, your reddened skin becomes purplish or blue, then finally black. You might feel a prickly sensation at first, but then eventually lose feeling all together.

Our bodies have remarkable mechanisms to regulate our body temperature, but only within a narrow body temperature range. We lose heat due to evaporation (such as sweating), and as our bodies lose heat to the surrounding, cooler air. We lose heat when we are in contact with cooler objects. Our bodies can only do so much before our muscles tire, our blood sugar levels drop and our adrenalin is exhausted.

Most of the time, chills can be reduced with warming. Limit the amount of time you spend outdoors on a cold day. Wet clothing should be removed and dry clothing put on as soon as possible. Layer blankets over yourself, and sip warm (non-alcoholic) drinks by the fire.

FAQs About Chills

Here are some frequently asked questions about chills.

Are the chills a sign of fever?

Chills very frequently accompany a fever as the body tries to warm itself to reach the set temperature necessary to help fight whatever virus or bacteria has invaded the body. Chills, however, may happen in conjunction with a fever but may also be the product of different types of viruses, bacteria, and pathogens (e.g. malaria) or different procedures like blood transfusion, or different drugs like anesthetic drugs.

Are the chills normal during pregnancy?

Isolated chills (chills that do not recur and are not accompanied by any other symptoms) are normal. Repeated chills may be a sign of an infection and warrant a visit to your physician. By themselves and in small isolated bouts, chills are not worrisome. If you are worried, it is reasonable to contact your provider.

Are the chills a sign of a more serious condition?

Most commonly, chills are a sign of a cold surrounding environment. They may also happen during a fever from a bacterial or viral infection. Rarely, they can be associated with more dangerous or rare conditions. Malaria, for example, is known for causing chills, as well as transfusion of mismatched blood and different types of cancers like mast cell leukemia or mastocytosis. Again, these are rare diseases and there is a high probability that chills are caused by a common viral illness like a cold or a flu.

When should you see a doctor for the chills?

If more than a week has passed and you are not getting better, you should see a physician. If an infant has chills, he or she should be seen by a physician immediately. If you have chills accompanied by a fever >100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, you should see a doctor. Chills are common, but are abnormal, so if they are not occuring as part of a routine illness like a known cold or infection it is best to seek medical evaluation.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Chills

  • Q.Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our chills symptom checker.

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Chills Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced chills have also experienced:

    • 10% Fever
    • 6% Headache
    • 5% Nausea
  • People who have experienced chills were most often matched with:

    • 24% Viral (Norovirus) Infection
    • 1% Panic Disorder

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Chills Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having chills.

Take a quiz