Chills: What Causes It?

Chills: What Causes It?


‘Chills’ is one word we get to hear often and indeed what we have experienced a couple of times in our lives. So what are chills? It is that cold feeling we have most likely when we are sick with malaria, strep throat and other medical conditions we will get to know later on in this article.

‘Chills’ is actually what happens with the muscles and blood vessels, particularly those of the skin in our body, contract several times. It is the repeated contracting activities of our muscles that then translate to the physical shaking we observe. This can last for up to one hour.  Chills can sometimes ‘come and go’ and can continue for minutes. Oftentimes, chills are accompanied by fever.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia


More often than not, cold environmental conditions and viral or bacterial-induced fever can trigger chills.

But let us take a look at some of those medical states that are popularly associated with chills;


When we or our kids have chills that come with a fever, there are some health-enhancing things that we can do at the comfort of our homes to help us get the necessary relief and comfort. And there are times that handling it alone at home will not help. That is when we will have to pick up our phone and ring our doctor.

Home care for adults

To treat chills, we need to consider whether fever accompanies it. Plus, we have to find out if the fever is a severe one or mild?

When the chills begin to manifest with feverish conditions, check whether the fever is mild and without any serious symptoms. If it is mild, it will be about 38.6°C (101.4°F) or even less.

So what should be done next when our chills are with mild fever?

  • Get ample rest!
  • Drink the copious amount of fluids.
  • Get covered with a very light blanket.
  • Wear loose, light clothing.
  • Light shower with water that is lukewarm.
  • Get some over-the-counter medications like aspirin (Bayer), ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).


Cold water has the trigger for episodic chills, so we avoid having a shower with it!

Medications should be taken with caution. Why? Acetaminophen, for instance, is notable for reducing fever but it does not have the ability to fight to minimize and inflammation.

Long use of either ibuprofen or acetaminophen can harm our body particularly our liver, kidney, and stomach.

Reaching out to our doctor will be the next line of action if after we have done all the aforementioned, the chills persist. This will be especially urgent if after 48 hours we do not feel any better. Also, the following symptoms can confirm to us that we really need to see our doctor;

  • Painful urination
  • Forceful vomiting
  • Frequent urination or its complete absence
  • Wheezing
  • Irritability
  • Severe coughing
  • Shortened breath
  • Confusion
  • Stiff neck
  • Sluggishness.
  • Abdominal Pain.
  • Sharp sensitivity diffuse light.

Home care for children

For kids with chills, their treatment option will take into cognizance their body temperature, age, and other symptoms they might present.

Generally speaking, when the body temperature of kids ranges between 100ºF – 102 ºF (37.8°C 38.9°C respectively), administering liquid or tablet form of acetaminophen can make them much comfortable. Instructions, as it pertains to dosage, should be strictly adhered to.

As much as possible, they should be worn with loose, light clothes and if they have to lie down, very light covers can be used on them. Hydrating their body with water or any drink of choice can go a long way in helping them get really better soon.

It has been reported that children not up to 18 years old, who use aspirin to fight viral-induced infections, are likely to be predisposed to developing a medical condition referred to as Reye’s syndrome.

Mayo Clinic has advised us to call our doctor if;

  • Kids below 3 months old caught a fever.
  • Kids aged 3 – 6 months experience highly lethargic fever.
  • Kids aged 6 – 24 months experience a fever lasting beyond a day.
  • Kids aged 24 months – 17 years old experience nonresponsive fever beyond three days.


Do you have any questions whatsoever about kids and chills? Answers can be gotten from certified and experienced doctors either by phone or online.


When our doctor wants to treat us of chills and fever, he or she will first ask us a couple of questions to be able to come up with the appropriate treatment plan. A quick look at some of these likely questions to expect;

  • Do the chills come with both shaking movements and cold?
  • What was the highest body temperature that was recorded from the chills?
  • Were the chills episodic or did they only come once?
  • If the chills were episodic, what was the duration of each episode?
  • Did the chills get triggered with an allergen or not?
  • What were other symptoms that came with the chills?

After the doctor has gotten satisfactory answers from these questions, the next thing he or she will do will be to conduct a physical examination on us.

This will then be likely followed with some tests to diagnose the presence of either a bacteria or a virus.

Some of these diagnostic tests include;

  • Blood Culture test to see if the blood contains some fungi or bacteria.
  • Sputum Culture: involves the collection of fluid from our bronchi and lungs
  • Urinalysis
  • Chest X-Ray: Its aim is to find out if the likely cause of the chills is tuberculosis or pneumonia, and perhaps other infections.

If the doctor detects bacteria in our blood, which is usually a sign of pneumonia or a strep throat, we will be administered with an antibiotic to ward off the infection.


Chills and fever more often than not are indicators that something is wrong somewhere in our body system. Should they continue after doing all the home remedies and in fact following diligently the prescriptions by our doctor, we have to quickly notify our doctor by a follow-up call.

Dehydration and hallucinations can often precipitate if our fever and chills go unattended to.

Children especially those between 6 months and 5 years can be thrown into fits of seizures due to the fever. This kind of fever is referred to as febrile seizures.

Although they do not have the ability to lead to terminal health diseases, they should not be treated likely either. Appropriate help should be sought for from qualified medical practitioners.

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