Chills Without Fever: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Do you have episodes of chills without a fever? We'll tell you what may be behind them and what you can do about them.
Chills Without Fever: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Diego Pereira

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Diego Pereira.

Last update: 02 October, 2022

We usually associate chills with infectious processes (viruses and bacteria). Because of this, most episodes are accompanied by a fever. In fact, chills are a mechanism of the body to warm up, as the “vibration” of your muscles increases your internal temperature. With this in mind, what’s behind chills without fever?

Certainly, these types of episodes may surprise many people, especially those who are used to experiencing them in conjunction with a fever. Although cases of this type are generally benign, you should be aware of other symptoms, as they may indicate an underlying condition. We’ll tell you everything you should know about chills without fever in this article.

Symptoms of chills without fever

Experts define chills as a form of “sensitivity in the perception of cold accompanied by involuntary shivering.’ The experience can last from a few minutes to several hours and in some cases extend over several days (manifesting itself through various episodes over this time). The symptoms of chills without a fever are as follows:

  • An increased perception of cold regardless of ambient temperature
  • Goosebumps
  • Involuntary muscle tremors
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Grinding of the teeth (a product of muscle tremors)
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Malaise
  • Drowsiness or lethargy

Although you may manifest these signs, chills without fever usually develop independently of them. Cold sweats are a very common symptom, so it can further enhance the episodes, thus creating a snowball effect (the cold sweat will make you shiver more).

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Most of these conditions are benign, so if symptoms develop, they will be mild or moderate in intensity. In severe cases, you may experience fainting, altered consciousness, bluish coloration of the skin and lips (cyanosis), and shortness of breath. It all depends on the underlying condition that is causing the shivering.

The causes of chills without fever

In theory, there are a hundred conditions that can be behind chills without a fever. In practice, some explanations are more common than others. Since it’s not possible to discuss all the conditions that can cause episodes of this type, we’ll tell you about some of the most common ones.

1. Exposure to cold

chills without fever
The simple fact of being exposed to low temperatures can cause involuntary shivering. This is an internal temperature regulation mechanism.

The most common explanation for shivering of this type is exposure to a drop in ambient temperature. If you have been in a pool, on the beach, in an open place with big blizzards a couple of hours ago (and so on), then your body will start to shiver to warm itself.

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You can also manifest it when wearing wet clothes, exposing yourself to rain, or stepping on a very cold or wet surface without shoes. Shivering is a natural and automatic mechanism to generate internal friction. By creating friction, heat is created in between, just as it happens when rubbing the palms together.

2. The body’s reaction to extended activities

Shivering can also be a side effect of extended activities. Bicycling or running can trigger shivering when the body is pushed to its limits or when it’s done on rainy days or in cold temperatures.

Physical activity alters body temperature. It usually rises, so the body begins to produce sweat to regulate it. When you finish a workout of one or several hours of intense activity, the temperature may drop drastically, which will lead the body to produce chills to reach the ideal temperature.

Another possible explanation is the depletion of your glycogen stores. Glycogen is one of the fuels for energy, so when it’s depleted, you develop symptoms such as muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and of course, chills without a fever

3. A side effect of medication

Every medication you take has a potential margin of developing side effects. Most of the time, these side effects don’t occur, or if they do, they’re often too mild for you to notice. Temporary or permanent intake of drugs, both regulated and unregulated (herbal and otherwise), can cause you to develop side effects.

In this case, the best thing to do is to consult the package insert to assess whether chills are among the listed side effects. You can also consult a specialist, especially when you have to keep taking the medication for months or years. Together, you can look for alternatives to treat the condition that makes you dependent on that particular drug.

Hypothyroidism

A person has hypothyroidism when his or her thyroid gland doens’t produce enough hormones to meet his or her body’s metabolic demand. A classic symptom is an increased sensitivity to cold, which can be mistaken for shivering. The classic signs that accompany this condition are as follows:

  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Swelling of the face
  • Loss of memory
  • Alterations in mood (with a predominance of emotions such as sadness)
  • Stiffness or swelling of the joints.
  • Slow heart rhythms.

Hypothyroidism is a very easy condition to diagnose and also very treatable. If you manifest these symptoms in conjunction with sensitivity to cold, do not hesitate to consult a specialist to rule it out.

Hypoglycemia

chills without fever
Low blood glucose levels can be very dangerous. This is a particularly common condition in diabetics.

Hypoglycemia is the lowering of blood glucose levels. In addition to shivering, people with hypoglycemia develop muscle tremors, sweating, blurred vision, disorientation, and dizziness. They may also experience irregular heartbeat, weakness, irritability, and confusion.

Episodes of hypoglycemia are much more frequent in people with diabetes mellitus. They usually occur as a side effect of medication. However, if you have an episode of hypoglycemia and don’t have a diagnosis of diabetes, it’s best to contact a physician immediately.

6. Other causes of chills without fever

Malnutrition can also generate this clinical manifestation. The body requires a delicate balance of nutrients to function properly. Thus, the nutritional deficit presented in the episodes of malnutrition will generate an inadequate functioning of the organism, and problems in regulating the temperature may appear and with them the chills.

Other possible explanations are allergic reactions, the common cold, and anemia. A sudden drop in blood pressure can also cause chills without fever.

The most common explanations are the most benign, especially when you haven’t developed severe symptoms or other signs. Intense emotional changes, according to experts, may also be behind the chills. For example, those you experience when listening to music, having anxiety, or being in a stressful situation.

Treating chills without a fever

Treatment of this condition depends on what is triggering the episodes. If it’s due to environmental temperature factors or excessive sport, you can keep warm until the symptoms disappear. This will help to restore the average body temperature without the help of this mechanism.

We’ve already stipulated that if you suspect that a certain type of medication is the source, the best thing to do is to consult a specialist. He or she will usually find an alternative medication, which will allow you to treat the underlying condition without having to deal with those annoying episodes.

In all other cases, you should seek medical attention to rule out any type of medical condition. Just because there is no fever involved doesn’t imply that it’s a benign process, so don’t hesitate to see a specialist as soon as possible. You should do this especially if the symptoms are repetitive and you can’t explain them with any the examples we’ve talked about here.

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