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Chills: Causes, Complications and First Aid Treatment & Management

The term chills pertains to feelings of coldness whilst usually shivering or shaking that is caused by the repeated muscle contraction and relaxation as a way of producing heat when the body feels cold.Chills generally arise from one of two causes: (1)an accompaniment to fever from infections and other causes and (2) after exposure to cold environments. They are caused by a wide range of disease. Usually, when accompanying fever, chills occur at the beginning of an infection. Chills often predict an upcoming fever or a rise in the core temperature of the body.

Chills should not be confused with goose bumps. Although goose bumps are also caused by exposure to cold air, they can also be caused by strong feelings of fear and shock, among others. Hair on the skin layers stick up during goose bumps that act as an extra layer of insulation. Goose bumps may or may not occur with chills. Chills are more common in young children than adults because they are more susceptible to developing fevers, especially high-grade.

Causes of Chills

                As previously mentioned, there are two major causes of chills. The following lead to rapid expansion and contraction of the muscles:

  • Bacterial and viral infections (accompaniment to fever)
    • Colds
    • Influenza (flu)
    • Pneumonia
    • Bacterial or viral gastroenteritis
    • Infectious mononucleosis
    • Meningitis
    • Strep throat
    • Urinary tract infections
    • Malaria
  • Exposure to a cold environment

Complications from Chills

Although chills are not generally dangerous, they may develop complications, along with fever. These include:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Hallucinations
  • Febrile seizures

First Aid Treatment and Management for Chills



Chills are treated and managed slightly differently for children and adults. There is usually no medical treatment required for chills as it the body’s natural response to a wide spectrum of conditions, as mentioned above.

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink sufficient amounts of fluids, especially water, fruit juices and sports drinks to remain hydrated all throughout the sickness.
  • Sponge the body with warm water to help decrease fever. One may also opt to take a cool shower. Evaporation will encourage cooling the skin and reducing body temperature. Avoid using cold water or alcohol as this may actually increase fever or cause shivering and even shock.
  • To help treat fever and chills, paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin may be taken.
  • Wear light clothing and do not cover/ wrap the individual in layers of blankets. This may encourage the body to stay warm or even increase temperatures prolonging the fever.
  • For children, the same treatment should be given as above, but follow the necessary precautions:
    • Only give paracetamol and ibuprofen in liquid or tablet form to children below 19 years of age to avoid increasing chances of developing Reye’s syndrome.
    • Do not wake a child who is asleep or resting to give medicine or take temperature.

To learn how to properly treat and manage children of chills and fever, enrol in First Aid Courses with St Mark James Training to avoid complications from developing and reducing the symptoms.

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