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The term "chills" refers to a feeling of being cold without an apparent cause. You get this feeling when your muscles repeatedly expand and contract. Chills can occur with a fever and cause shivering or shaking.
Your body chills can be constant. Each episode can last for as long as an hour. Your chills can also occur periodically and last for several minutes.
Some chills occur after exposure to a cold environment. They can also occur as a response to a bacterial or viral infection that causes a fever. Chills are commonly associated with the following conditions:
If you or your child has a fever with chills, there are some things you can do at home for comfort and relief. Keep reading to learn how to treat a fever with chills and when you should call a doctor.
Treatment is usually based on whether your chills are accompanied by a fever and the severity of the fever. If your fever is mild (101.4ºF or less) and you have no other serious symptoms, you don’t have to see a doctor. Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of liquids.
Cover yourself with a light sheet and avoid heavy blankets or clothing, which can raise your body temperature. Sponging your body with lukewarm water or taking a cool shower may help reduce a fever. Cold water, however, may trigger an episode of chills.
Over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil), can also lower a fever and fight chills. As with any medication, carefully follow the instructions and take them as directed. Aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil) will lower your fever and reduce inflammation. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) will bring down a fever, but it will not reduce inflammation. Acetaminophen can be toxic to your liver if it isn’t taken as directed.
Call your doctor if your fever and chills don’t improve after 48 hours of home care or if you have any of the following symptoms:
Treating a child with chills and fever depends on the child’s age, temperature, and any accompanying symptoms. In general, if your child’s fever is between 100ºF and 102ºF and they are uncomfortable, you can give them acetaminophen in tablet or liquid form. It’s important to follow the dosing instructions on the package.
Never bundle feverish children in heavy blankets or layers of clothing. Dress them in lightweight clothing and give them water or other liquids to keep them hydrated.
Never give aspirin to children under the age of 18 because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome is a rare but serious disorder that can develop in children who were given aspirin while fighting a viral infection.
According to the Mayo Clinic, call a doctor in the case of any of the following:
Your doctor will ask details about your chills and fever, including:
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and possibly run diagnostic tests to see if a bacterial or viral infection causes your fever. Diagnostic tests may include:
Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic if you’re diagnosed with a bacterial infection, such as strep throat or pneumonia.
Chills and fever are signs that something is wrong. If chills and fever persist after treatment, see your doctor to determine the underlying cause.
If a fever goes untreated, you may experience severe dehydration and hallucinations. Children ages 6 months to 5 years may also have fever-induced seizures (febrile seizures). Luckily, these seizures do not typically cause long-term health problems.
Written by: Maureen Donohue and Valenica Higuera
Medically reviewed on: Oct 01, 2015: Steven Kim, MD
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