What are chills?

Having chills refers to feeling excessively cold, even when you are wearing warm clothing or are wrapped in blankets. When you have the chills, you may also be shivering or look pale.

Chills are often related to fever, an increase in body temperature above normal (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Fever is a sign of inflammation or infection in the body.

Part of your body’s response to infection is to create a fever by raising body temperature. Chills are caused by rapid contraction and relaxation of the muscles to increase body temperature. A fever can help to kill infectious pathogens or prevent their spread because most pathogens that cause infection survive best at a normal body temperature.

Chills and fever can be caused by fairly benign conditions, such as a cold, or by serious conditions, such as influenza, malaria or meningitis. Chills and fever are more common in children than adults because even minor illnesses produce a fever in children. Children also tend to get higher fevers than adults.

Exposure to cold temperatures and a low body temperature (hypothermia, a body temperature at or below 95 degrees) can also cause chills as muscles contract and relax to warm the body. Autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, as well as some cancers, can also cause a fever and chills.

Chills can be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening infection or hypothermia. Seek prompt medical care or talk with a medical professional about your symptoms if they persist more than two days or if they cause you concern.

Fever in infants and very young children can quickly become serious. Infants do not usually develop chills, but seek prompt medical care for a fever in a child less than one year old. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have been exposed to cold temperatures or cold water or have other symptoms, such as lethargy, difficulty breathing, stiff neck, or confusion.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with chills?

Chills are often a sign of fever, which can be caused by a wide variety of infections. Chills can also be caused by hypothermia and other conditions. Chills often occur with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Symptoms may occur along with chills

CAUSES

What causes chills?

Chills are caused by a wide variety of infectious diseases, some of which are common, such as the flu. In some cases, chills can be due to an inflammatory condition, such as an allergic reaction, or an autoimmune disease, such as lupus. Chills and fever can accompany certain cancers as well.

Chills may also be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be imm... Read more about chillscauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases


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