By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
It's easy to understand why you're having chills when it's cold and snowy but why are you shivering when it's a warm, sunny day? Chills or shivering are feelings of coldness and they frequently make you shake. You can get chills in a cold environment but they can also be a response to an infection - no matter how hot it is outside. In fact, chills may come with a fever, when your body is uncomfortably warm. Why exactly are you shivering? What do chills mean and how can you remove them?
Chills Are Not the Same as Goosebumps?
Chills are your body's way of trying to warm up when it feels cold. The rapid contraction and relaxation of the muscles produces heat and chills often come right before a rise in your overall temperature or a fever. Children can get chills as well as adults.
It is interesting to note that "goose bumps" are not the same as chills - goose bumps are a response to cold air or to a strong emotion like fear. You may or may not experience goose bumps when you have chills.
What Causes Chills?
You shiver and have chills if you are in a cold environment and your body is trying to warm up. Other causes of chills include viral and bacterial infections such as colds, flu, gastroenteritis, meningitis, pneumonia, strep throat, and urinary tract infections. In fact, almost any type of infection can produce chills.
Can I Treat Chills at Home?
Chills and a fever are your body's way of fighting infection and if the fever that accompanies chills is mild (102°F or less) and you don't have any other symptoms you can treat chills at home with plenty of fluids and lots of rest.
If you have a fever, applying cold water to the skin or using a fan or air conditioner can make chills worse. If chills are accompanied by a stiff neck, confusion, fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, or abdominal pain, consult a doctor.
Chills can occur for a number of reasons. We looked at the recent scientific evidence to find out the reasons for chills and how to treat chills the natural way.
1. The Flu Can Cause Chills
Chills are one way you can tell whether you have a common cold or the flu. Chills are a common sign of the influenza infection (flu).
Chills, fever, headache, nausea, exhaustion, muscle aches, and runny nose accompany the flu and the symptoms can last up to a week. Zinc may be useful as a supplement to reduce the risk of chills linked to the flu.
A 2007 study from Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor discovered that zinc supplements reduced the rate of infection in a study of nursing home residents taking zinc supplements compared to placebo.
2. Feeling Chills --- It Could Be Your Personality
If you are particularly open to new experiences, you are more likely to feel shivers and chills when listening to music, according to a 2010 study from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
People who are open to new experiences tend to be creative, curious, and imaginative - and they more frequently feel chills when music is playing.
3. Experiencing Chills Due to Frostbite
If you are outside in the cold and you start to feel chills, beware.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons warns that you can suffer the permanently damaging effects of frostbite if you are not careful in the cold.
Chills can be a warning sign but it only takes a few minutes at minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit for exposed skin to be frostbitten. Dress appropriately for the cold climate with loose, layered clothing, a hat, gloves, two pairs of socks, and a water-repellant layer on top.
If you get chills and your feet or hands start to feel numb, get inside and warm up, take off wet clothing, and immerse the affected areas in warm water for 30 to 45 minutes.
4. Bacteria in Your Blood Can Cause Chills
Bacteremia, or bacteria in the blood, happens when normally sterile blood is contaminated by bacteria during surgery, as a result of a cut or graze, or through infected needles entering the veins or arteries.
You may not have any symptoms when you experience bacteria in the blood, and the body can work to rid itself successfully of the infection. But if you have chills, fever, or shaking and confusion it is often a sign that you are suffering from sepsis or septic shock.
Did you know that eating apples can help cleanse the blood? Apples are high in pectin, a type of fiber that assists the body in removing fat and cholesterol from the liver, according to a 1998 study from Utrecht University, The Netherlands.
5. Chills Could be the Sign of a Tropical Disease
If you recently traveled to a tropical area or country, chills could be the sign of malaria or another tropical disease. Get medical advice if you are having chills after a recent trip abroad.
A 2007 study from Imperial College London, UK says that chills, itchy skin, fever, muscle aches, and liver disease are the signs of "schistosomiasis", a tropical disease caused by a parasitic worm.
6. Are Your Chills Caused by Strep Throat?
Strep throat is a type of sore throat caused by streptococcus bacteria. This condition is common in children and it can cause chills along with intense throat pain, fever, headache, and nausea.
According to a study in 2003 by the Academy for Continuing Medical Education, Kiev, Ukraine the herb Pelargonium sidoides may help to lessen the impact and shorten the duration of the strep infection, following research into a group of 143 children.
7. Chills Produced by Viral Gastroenteritis
Chills can occur along with fever and diarrhea in the case of food poisoning and viral conditions like gastroenteritis.
Probiotics may help to reduce chills and the incidence of diarrhea in children and may help stop viral diarrhea in adults too. A 2001 study from The Medical University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland discovered that the results of 13 trials into probiotics showed probiotics had benefits for treating viral diarrhea and the chills associated with it.