Why Do We Get Chills with a Fever?
Why is it that when we have a fever, we often get the chills? Common sense tells us that when our body temperature rises, we should feel warmer, not colder. Getting chills is actually a step in the process that your immune system uses to fight off germs that are making you sick.
Viruses and bacteria multiply poorly above 98.6 degrees, which is the average human body temperature. By raising the temperature of the body, our immune system is stopping the virus or bacteria from growing.
Our immune system begins its work by telling the brain that we need to raise the thermostat to a higher body temperature. Once the higher temperature is set, your body begins working to increase its temperature. You will feel cold because you are now at a lower temperature than your brain thinks you should be so your body will begin to shiver to generate heat and raise your temperature. This is the chills.
What Causes Fever?
Some of the causes of fever may be colds or the flu, ear or sinus infections, bronchitis, or pneumonia. Auto-immune diseases can cause fevers as well as some drugs. Children may spike a fever after an immunization.
Also, depending on why you are sick, there are many variables that determine the length of a fever and how high it may go. Symptoms you may feel with a fever may include feeling weak, feeling light headed, loss of appetite, muscle aches or nausea.
What Can I Do at Home?
Most fevers will come down on their own.
- Get plenty of rest. Your body is working hard internally to fight the virus or bacterial infection.
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- A cool washcloth on the forehead or back of the neck may be soothing.
When Should I Get Treatment?
It’s time to visit your health care provider when:
- Your fever is accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, headache, rash, neck stiffness, swollen joints, or abdominal pain.
- The fever is high or last longer than two or three days. A high fever is considered 102 degrees and above (for infants 101 degrees and above.)
- If you have suffered medical issues and then spike a fever.
About the Author
Alexander Karamalegos, DO practices family medicine at South Graham Medical Center