Human beings are warm blooded animals who need the body temperatures to be maintained at an optimum level. When measured with an oral thermometer, this optimum level is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Centigrade. A slight variation within this range is also considered normal. However, if the temperature rises by more than 1or 2 degrees then a person is said to have a fever. However, fever is not a sickness or disease. In fact it is a sign that the body is fighting infection causing pathogens that may have entered the body. Although fever refers to increase in temperature, chills and fever are associated in many conditions.
Chills and Fever
Chills refer to the feeling of coldness and shivering that an individual feels when he is exposed to extremely cold environments. Shivering during chills is caused due to involuntarily contraction and relaxation of the muscles inside the body to generate heat. This happens as a reaction of the body to maintain its temperature at the optimum level. Although one may experience chills as commonly as on a cold morning, chills often occur during fever. They may occur for almost an hour or may last just a few minutes occurring intermittently throughout fever. Chills may occur in the beginning of an infection and indicate fever or increase in the body's core temperature. Even goose bumps are associated with chills. However, goosebumps occur when body hair stands up to form a layer of insulation to conserve temperature of the body.
Causes of Chills and Fever
Conditions causing fever and chills usually overlap. Some of them cause chills and fever at night. Listed below are some common causes of chills and fever.
Causes of Fever
Infectious Diseases: Fever is a common sign of infections that children are most prone to. Fever indicates that the body's immune system is fighting against infection inside the body. Occasional fever in a healthy individual may be taken as a sign that his defense mechanism is working properly. However, if one suffers from recurrent or long periods of high fever, it may be taken as a sign of a bigger disease.
Ear Infections: Ear infections are typically accompanied by fever and pain in the ears. This is more common in children and babies. In case a baby has a low grade fever and rubs his/her ear or shows signs of discomfort, it is imperative to take the baby to the doctor. This kind of fever subsides as the ear infection gets cured.
Sunstroke: Long periods of exposure to heat and sun can cause heat exhaustion. This may lead to fever up to 102 degree Fahrenheit or heat stroke. However, in case the fever rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, medical help should be immediately sought. Sometimes severe sunburn can also cause low grade fever.
Gastrointestinal Disorders: Pain in the abdomen that is accompanied with fever or other symptoms like weakness, sweating, bloating, bleeding from mouth or rectum may indicate a gastrointestinal problem. This problem could be anything from appendicitis to inflammatory disorders.
Arthritis: Some joint problems like arthritis may be cause fever along with the characteristic pain and swelling of the joints.
Cancer: Many types of cancer cause fever. However, fever is most in case of blood cancer, cancer of the lymph and those that have spread to other parts of the body.
Causes of Chills:
- Cold and Flu
- Pelvic Infection
- Kidney Infection
- Urinary Tract Infection
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- Other bacterial and viral infections
When to Seek Medical Help?
Although fever is a sign that the body is fighting infection, in case it is accompanied with symptoms like problem in breathing, a stiff neck, confusion, irritability and vomiting it could be an indication of some serious disease. In case the fever does not subside after 3 days, and continues for more than 5 days, it is necessary to call a doctor and seek medical help. Temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit in children who are less than 3 months old or fever that lasts for more than 24 hours in children aged between 3 months and 1 year can be a reason of concern. Do not bundle up a person in blankets in case he has high temperature as this may further raise the temperature.
Chills and fever can tackled at home. When one feels chills the most important thing to do is to try keep the body warm. Fever can be treated at home by giving medicines like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin. However, do not give aspirin to minors who have symptoms of viral infection. When it comes to children, it is always wise to consult a physician before giving any medicine.