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Symptoms, Causes, Related Conditions, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • Chills can be triggered by various factors such as cold environments, physical exhaustion, certain illnesses, specific medications, and intense emotional states.
  • Health conditions associated with chills include infections, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, malnutrition, hypothermia, heat exhaustion, and COVID-19.
  • The article provides a comprehensive explanation of each cause and related health condition, detailing symptoms and offering advice for each.
  • Chills can be a symptom of COVID-19, thus testing is recommended if you've been exposed to the virus and are experiencing chills.
  • The article concludes with a list of alternative terms for chills, including goosebumps, shaking, shivering, and rigors.

Top 5 Causes of Chills

1. Coldness

Sometimes, experiencing chills is simply due to being cold. If you feel like you’re getting the chills (shaking, teeth chattering, goosebumps, etc.), check the temperature gauge on your thermostat. If you experience them when you’re outside in chilly weather, try to get warm before you start to experience more pronounced and dangerous issues.

2. Physical Exhaustion

If you’ve just run a marathon or done something physically extreme, there is a chance you might experience chills as a result. When the body is very tired, it may start to tremble. If you have been exercising outside in the heat or cold, your shaking may be more pronounced.

3. Illness

A cold, fever, or flu can cause a person to experience chills. If your nose is running, you are sneezing a lot, and you feel warm to the touch, your chills are likely caused by an illness of some kind. You should rest and drink plenty of fluids to aid in recovery. You should consult your doctor if your symptoms increase or worsen over time.

4. Medications

Chills are common side effects of many different medications.[1] This symptom can be more prevalent at the start of taking a specific prescription and can lessen over time as your body becomes used to it. Talk to your doctor if your chills do not subside.

5. Emotions

Are your emotions running high? You can experience chills as the result of a very emotional state, as adrenaline rushes through your body. Take a deep breath to clear your head, and think about whether you feel anxious or overly excited. Similarly, if you are recovering from a traumatic experience, your body may produce chills or uncontrollable shaking as you emerge from your initial shock.

Possible Health Conditions Related to Chills

1. Infections

Chills are a possible side effect of an infection, either caused by viruses or bacteria.[2] For example, the flu is caused by the influenza virus, and this can lead to chills.[3] A person who has a mild infection causing chills, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing might be able to stay in bed and get well, but sometimes, infections worsen and require a doctor’s treatment. In some cases, a less common kind of infection can lead to chills as well, so consider the other symptoms you’re experiencing in order to narrow down the likely causes.

2. Hypothyroidism

This is a disorder that occurs when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones for your body. People with hypothyroidism often have an increased sensitivity to cold, so they have more trouble in colder areas and are more likely to experience chills.[4] Other symptoms of this disorder include a slow pulse, weight gain, memory and concentration problems, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Your doctor can determine whether you have hypothyroidism and whether you need medication to manage it.

3. Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is also known as low blood glucose.[5] People who have diabetes can experience it when their blood sugar becomes low, but you can also be hypoglycemic without being diabetic. When you have hypoglycemia, you can shake and shiver, which looks similar to having chills.[1] Other signs are seizures, blurry vision, sweating, heart palpitations, confusion, and tingling of the mouth.

4. Malnutrition

If you become dangerously malnourished, you could experience chills because your body can’t function the way it should — it can’t keep you warm. In addition, you will not have the nutrients you need to go through everyday life, which could also lead to shaking and shivering.

Malnutrition is a common result of anorexia or another eating disorder that occurs when a person starves themselves deliberately. Other signs of malnutrition include pale skin, rashes on the skin, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, tingling of the joints, and faintness. Women with malnutrition do not have periods because the body no longer has the capability to nourish a potential fetus.[6] Malnutrition is a serious problem that requires immediate treatment.

5. Hypothermia

In cold weather, you can experience hypothermia, which can cause your body to shiver and shake. Bodies that are below 95 degrees are too cold and need immediate medical treatment.[7] The people most at risk of experiencing hypothermia while indoors are babies, who can get too cold and are not able to verbalize, and the elderly, who are more susceptible to the cold.

6. Heat Exhaustion

Chills can be an indicator of the opposite problem as well. A person who gets too hot can develop heat exhaustion, usually after several days of being in a temperature warmer than they can physically handle.[8] Sweating and rapid breathing are strong signs of heat exhaustion. If a person gets too hot, they can experience heatstroke, which is characterized by lack of sweat, a fast pulse, nausea, confusion, and dizziness. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that requires help immediately, so if an individual is sweaty and shaky from being in the heat, try to get them inside or somewhere cool before the condition worsens.

7. Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Chills are a common symptom of COVID-19.[9] COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that shares many of the same symptoms as influenza, including chills or fever.[10] COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person, and may even be spread by those who have the virus but do not exhibit any symptoms. Chills can begin within 2 to 14 days of contracting COVID-19 and may be accompanied by other symptoms including cough, fatigue, headache, sore throat, and diarrhea.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Your Chills

  • How long have you been experiencing chills?
  • Do you have a fever?
  • Have you been working out or straining yourself physically lately?
  • What other symptoms are you experiencing?
  • Are you eating enough?
  • Have you had the flu, a cold, or another kind of illness or infection recently?
  • Have you recently been exposed to anyone with COVID-19?
  • Have you recently been in close proximity to people outside your household?
  • Have you recently been around others who were not wearing cloth face coverings?

Chills May Also be Known as

  • Goosebumps
  • Shaking
  • Shivering
  • Rigors

Frequently asked questions

  • What are some common causes of chills?

    Some common causes include cold environments, physical exhaustion, certain illnesses, specific medications, and intense emotional states.
  • What health conditions are associated with chills?

    Health conditions related to chills include infections, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, malnutrition, hypothermia, heat exhaustion, and COVID-19.
  • Is COVID-19 associated with chills?

    Yes, chills can be a symptom of COVID-19. If you've been exposed to the virus and are experiencing chills, you should consider getting tested.
  • What are some other terms for chills?

    Other terms for chills include goosebumps, shaking, shivering, and rigors.
  • What should I do if I have chills and have been exposed to COVID-19?

    If you've been exposed to COVID-19 and are experiencing chills, it's recommended to get tested for the virus.
  • What questions might a doctor ask if I'm experiencing chills?

    A doctor may ask how long you've been experiencing chills, if you have a fever, and if you've been physically straining yourself.
  • Can certain medications cause chills?

    Yes, certain medications can cause chills as a side effect.
  • Can emotional states trigger chills?

    Yes, high emotional states can trigger chills.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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