Chills vs common cold: Know the difference

Chills can make you to shiver when your body temperature drops. they are not common cold. Read on to know the difference between chills and common cold.
A woman experiencing chills.
Chills are a sudden drop in temperature, and can be accompanied by fever as well. Image courtesy: Freepik
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 23 Dec 2023, 03:00 pm IST
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Are there times when you just feel cold even if there is not significant drop in temperature? Well, you might be experiencing chills. Chills is when you feel cold without any obvious cause. Here, your muscles are constantly contracting and expanding, and the vessels on your skin are constricting or getting narrow. You might think you have common cold. But chills and common are very different.

A chill episode can last from several minute to a few hours as well. Health Shots got in touch with paediatrician Dr Srinivasa Murthy C L, who tells us everything you need to know about chills.

What are chills?

Chills are how your body responds to a drop in temperature. On average, temperature should be around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). But when your body gets exposed to extreme cold, the body temperature drops. “When you shiver, your muscles start to contract on their own. This leads to production of heat and the body’s temperature gets raised. Chills commonly accompany fever, although not everyone experiencing chills necessarily has a fever,” says Dr Murthy. A condition called hypothermia can also occur. This is when the body temperature drops below 95 F (35 C).

Also Read: Seasonal flu in kids: All that you must know in changing season

Are chills and common cold the same?

No, they are not. “Common cold is connected with Rhinorrhea or nasal congestion. It includes symptoms like a runny nose, blocked nose and nasal congestion. In contrast, chills involve the body shivering to increase its temperature when feeling cold,” says Dr Murthy.

A woman blowing her nose
Common cold and chills are very different. Image courtesy: Freepik

What are the causes of chills?

There are multiple causes that can led to chills. Whether or not there is a high temperature, a person may experience chills if their body temperature falls. Besides fever, some of the other causes include:

  • Malaria
  • Bacterial infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Influenza
  • Low blood sugar
  • Panic attack
  • Sepsis
  • Post traumatic stress
  • Anesthesia

How to treat chills at home?

There are some practical steps that can be taken to ensure that you don’t catch a chill.

1. Be warm

This one is a no-brainer, but when one stays warm, chills can be prevented. It might also be a good idea to add extra layers of clothing, when it comes to kids.

2. Drink warm beverages:

Once you have physically covered yourself, drinking something warm might just do the trick. So tea, coffee, or even hot chocolate for kids, can help the chills go away.

3. Avoiding excessive use of drugs or alcohol

Drinking too much can lead to your immune system releasing a chemical called cytokins. This can affect your memory as well as your concentration and can lead to nausea and chills.

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4. Treating the underlying illness

It is important to make sure to take the right medication, be it antibiotics or antivirals to treat the underlying cause. In cases of high temperature in children, acetaminophen or paracetamol can be used, but overuse should be avoided.

Woman in winter clothes
Keeping warm is the best way to avoid chills. Image courtesy: Freepik

5. Take care of your blood sugar

Low blood sugar can also be one of the reasons of chills, especially if you are diabetic. Just make sure to check your blood sugar and take the necessary action.

When do you need to call the doctor?

Make sure to call the doctor if the fever refuses to break. “One needs to seek medical attention when the temperature is very high, such as reaching 102 or 103 degrees Fahrenheit in an adult or a child aged 3 months and above,” says Dr Murthy. For infants less than three months old, contact a doctor if the temperature exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

You should also head to a doctor at once if you experience chest ache or fatigue. Abdominal pain and wheezing must also not be ignored or self-treated.



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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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