Chills refer to a sudden shiver experienced all over the body, despite the surroundings not being too wintry or freezing. These cold feelings generally arise due to a fever, stemming from many bacterial and viral infections, such as malaria, pneumonia, dengue, common cold and flu. However, people can come across chills owing to other health anomalies as well, namely inflammatory conditions like arthritis, meningitis, sharp drop in blood glucose in diabetes mellitus and even some types of cancer.

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The underlying reason behind shuddering witnessed in chills is that the muscles within the body expand and contract rapidly, while the blood vessels beneath the skin become rigid and tighten. These goosebumps are essentially a part of the body’s built-in mechanism, to maintain warm surroundings, for vital internal organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, in order to avert any severe damage or infection.

Since chills are not a unique disease but a perceptible symptom of various illnesses, the pertinent treatment for shivering in the system depends on the exact cause. In minor instances of chills due to seasonal infections and fevers, taking ample rest and consuming adequate water, fluids helps to suppress the abrupt tingling in the body. Nevertheless, when chills lead to something more serious, like chest pain or breathing trouble, consulting with a medical professional at once is necessary, to provide prompt, accurate diagnosis and treatment and ensure complete recovery of the affected person. Particularly in present times of the rampant spread of COVID-19, seeking immediate care is very important, when an individual with chills develops prominent respiratory problems.

Causes Of Chills

The foremost cause of chills is freezing outside environment, especially during the peak winter season. And in challenging circumstances of long-term exposure to cold, like in mountain climbing, grave complications such as hypothermia i.e. sudden, steep and injurious drop in body temperature can occur.

When chills are accompanied by fevers and body aches, it is most likely owing to microbial infection. Examples include flu, malaria, dengue, urinary tract infection (UTI) and tuberculosis.

Chronic disorders that affect different organs – lungs, hormonal imbalances and pancreas, joints, heart, such as asthma, sinusitis, diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis and hypertension, also result in episodes of chills at times or quite often.

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The onset of some cancers, such as leukaemia and the subsequent medication, treatment regime can lead to chills rather frequently. Other prescription or over-the-counter drugs for some underlying conditions can also prompt chills.

Occasionally, chills can also be experienced due to psychological happenings. These can stem from overwhelming emotions of happiness or disappointment, situations causing nervousness, worry, tension or a reaction to something scary, like a live road accident, a movie or music.

Other Indications

In certain situations, chills can imply some serious health irregularity. These often affect the key organs of the heart and brain.

Chills can give rise to a bluish tinge in the body, which indicates a severe lack of oxygen in the circulating bloodstream or cyanosis. This vastly hampers the functioning of the cardiac muscles and nerve cells and must be treated at once, to avoid severe damage to the internal system.


When the patient reports chills on a daily basis or for an extended period of time, the doctor initially gauges the vital parameters of the system, namely the body temperature, blood pressure, pulse and breathing patterns. A complete physical exam is also conducted, to look for signs of infection, cold, flu, skin rashes and any hindrances in other operations like digestion, joint motion and muscle flexibility are noted.

The healthcare provider also records any pre-existing health problems or chronic ailments that the patient may be suffering from, to determine if those could be the cause of chills.

In case the presence of any infection or inflammatory illness is suspected to be the cause of chills, the physician performs additional assays of blood tests, urine analysis and chest X-rays, to probe for the relevant pathogenic factors.


When seasonal illnesses or common bacterial, viral ailments trigger chills, the appropriate prescription medicines are taken to cure the ailment, while the accompanying chills can be managed with some simple home remedies.

These include taking pain-relieving drugs to alleviate body aches, consuming generous amounts of water, fluids to stay hydrated and relaxing, resting the body through the day. Moreover, towels dipped in warm water can be placed on the forehead, along with covering up in layers, insulating clothing, to soothe the body and induce heat.

Yet, in severe cases, where high fever lasts for a long time, besides breathing difficulties, widespread rashes, abnormal heartbeat, extreme tension, cramps in muscles, mental confusion and chest discomfort, swift medical treatment must be given, to facilitate precise diagnosis and guarantee optimal recovery of the patient.