Can I Be Chill About the Chills?

Can I Be Chill About the Chills?

Picture this: Your body starts to ache. Your skin breaks out in goosebumps and you begin to shiver even though you're dressed warmly and the room isn’t cold. What’s going on?

Well, it sounds like you have the chills and possibly even a fever. We’ve all had the chills, but do you know why you get them when your body temp is higher than normal?

What Causes the Chills?

Although you can get the chills simply by being exposed to cold temperatures, they often occur with a fever. When your body is fighting an illness, it will sometimes raise its temperature to try to kill the virus or bacteria that is making you sick. As your temperature rises, the rest of your body tries to catch up, making you feel cold. Your muscles then contract and relax very quickly to help you warm up which causes the shivering.

Fever and chills are common symptoms of these conditions:

  • Strep throat
  • The flu 
  • Pneumonia
  • Sinus infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Meningitis
  • Malaria
How Do You Treat the Chills?

The treatment for a fever and the chills can vary depending on what’s causing them. Generally, if your fever is mild (102ºF or less) you can try to lower it at home first. Home remedies include:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Drinking lots of fluids
  • Take fever-reducing medicine such as acetaminophen
  • Sponging your body with lukewarm water

According to the U.S. Library of Medicine,   bundling up in blankets or turning up a fan or AC will only make the chills worse.

When Should You Go See a Doctor?

Make an appointment with your doctor if:

  • The fever doesn’t improve after three days or lasts for more than five days
  • The fever stays above 103ºF even after you've tried to bring it down at home
  • You have a bad cough, shortness of breath, stomach pains, stiff neck, experience confusion and irritability, or have to urinate often

If you have a baby younger than three months old, you should go to the doctor if they have a:

  • Temperature higher than 101ºF
  • Fever for more than a day

Your doctor will usually ask you a couple of questions and run some tests to figure out what’s causing the fever and chills. Once the cause is found, you'll get advice on how it can be treated.

Source: Chills  U.S. Library of Medicine, 2021.

Originally published 2/10/2016; Revised 2021

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