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What are chills?

Chills are the body’s way of generating heat by causing the muscles to relax and contract rapidly. Chills can occur if someone is exposed to a cold environment. They may also precede or be associated with a high temperature or fever. Chills are key symptoms in certain diseases such as malaria. They are common in young children who tend to develop higher temperatures than adults.

Symptoms of chills

Common signs and symptoms of chills are:

  • Shivering
  • Tremors
  • Pale or clammy skin
  • Feeling cold (even under blankets)
  • Fever

Causes of chills

Chills are the body’s response to a range of mild to serious conditions including:

Diagnosing chills

Your GP can assess whether there is an underlying condition by asking questions about:

  • Accompanying symptoms such as fever
  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Lifestyle
  • Medical history

Your GP may also arrange blood or urine tests to check for:

Treating chills

If you are managing chills at home, avoid wrapping up in too many blankets if you have a high temperature, which may worsen chills. Instead try:

  • Rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Medication such as paracetamol

Seek medical advice if you have:

  • A bad cough or shortness of breath
  • A temperature over 39°C (102.2°F)
  • A fever that does not improve in 3 days.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 12, 2017

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