Uncontrollable shivering is often associated with exposure to cold or rapid shifts in temperature. However, there are a lot of other possible causes of chills. Severe, long-lasting shivering may be a symptom of some medical condition that needs more than just a blanket, but immediate medical treatment.
Causes and Treatments of Uncontrollable Shivering
1. Low Blood Sugar Levels
Havingblood sugar levels below normal can cause uncontrollable shivering that is accompanied by dizziness, sweating, headache and rapid heartbeats. This condition, also called hypoglycemia, is common among diabetics who are taking insulin. Accidental use of an excess dose of insulin can lead to a rapid decline in blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia. Other possible causes of hypoglycemia include skipping of meals, alcohol abuse, excessive exercise and low carbohydrate intake.
Treatment: Eat a snack containing sugar to quickly increase your blood sugar level or to prevent symptoms of hypoglycemia from worsening.
2. Respiratory Tract Infection
A viral or bacterial infection in the respiratory tract usually causes bronchial swelling, and this may be followed by bouts of uncontrollable shivering, coughing, chest pains and other breathing problems.
Treatment: Treatment of respiratory tract infection involves loosening the mucus in the chest by drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding irritants, and taking medications (cough expectorants, painkillers) to relieve your symptoms.
3. Fluid Loss
Shivering may be one of the initial symptoms of acute fluid loss or dehydration. In this situation, your body tries to maintain its normal temperature and it becomes more sensitive to the temperature of the surrounding environment, resulting in uncontrollable shivering. This is usually experienced by people after participating in marathons due to severe dehydration. Other symptoms include headache, muscle cramps, dark-colored urine, and nausea.
Treatment: Restore fluid balance by drinking lots of water. You can also take fluid-containing electrolytes to restore the balance in your blood electrolytes.
Sometimes you may feel an unexplained cold sensation during summer, causing uncontrollable shivering, accompanied by weakness or fatigue. This may be due to iron-deficiency anemia, a medical condition characterized by low blood hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a substance in blood that binds iron and plays an important role in transportingoxygen to the different parts of your body. Patients who have low iron levels experience intermittent shivering, and may complain of having cold hands or feet.
Treatment: Take iron supplements to treat iron-deficiency anemia. These supplements must be taken with meals and used with vitamin C to increase absorption.
5. Food Poisoning
Sudden shivering without fever can occur due to food poisoning. Although some patients get fever and chills due to food borne illnesses, others do not experience an increase in body temperature. Aside from uncontrollable shivering, they may also experience diarrhea, vomiting, andabdominal cramps.
Treatment: In many cases, symptoms improve within a few days. However, repeated episodes of diarrhea may lead to dehydration from excessive loss of fluids and electrolytes. To avoid this, drink adequate amounts of water with electrolytes. Call your doctor if symptoms persist or become worse.
6. Certain Drugs
Some prescription drugs, especially when taken in high doses, have side effects, which include uncontrollable shaking even in the absence of high body temperature.
Treatment: Ask your doctor about adjusting the dosage of your medications if they cause side effects like shivering. However, if your symptoms persist, ask him about changing your medicine or looking for other alternatives.
7. Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infections can cause symptoms like painful urination, odorous urine, and intermittent chills. If the infection spreads to your kidneys, you may also experience fever and uncontrollable shivering.
Treatment: A urinary tract infection caused by bacteria must be treated with antibiotics. Consult your doctor for proper evaluation and treatment.
8. Parasitic Infection
Parasitic infections like toxoplasmosis are common, but if you have a healthy immune system, you may not experience symptoms. However, if you have a weakened or low immunity, you may experience symptoms like fatigue, muscle aches, swollen glands, fever, and recurrent chills.
Treatment: Severe cases of parasitism, especially in those with low immune function require medical treatment. For toxoplasmosis, your doctor may prescribe pyrimethamine (Daraprim), a medicine that is also used for treating malaria. Aside from this, antibiotics may also be prescribed for parasitic infections.
9. Mental Disorder
Aside frompoor physical health, shivering in the absence of fever may occur when you are overwhelmed with emotional problems such as anxiety disorders or panic attacks. This may be accompanied by dry mouth, nervousness, and lowering of body temperature.
Treatment: Relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga can help calm your mind and relieve anxiety.
10. Spider Bites
Some spiders like black widow or brown recluse bite and spread their poisonous venom to your body. This can cause an allergic reaction that can persist for days. It can make you feel ill and experience uncontrollable shivering, nausea, and vomiting.
Treatment: Apply ice to the affected area to reduce pain and inflammation. See a doctor immediately to prevent complications and for treatment of poisonous spider bites with anti-venom drugs.
11. Other Causes
Thyroid gland disorders such as hypothyroidism can cause body tremors. The thyroid is a gland that controls metabolism, or the amount of energy your body burns. An underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism can cause symptoms like shivering, diarrhea, and cold intolerance.
A deficiency in vitamin B-12 may play a role in the development of tremors. This vitamin is important in supporting proper nerve function. A deficiency in vitamin B-12 can cause uncontrollable shaking, although it is not a common symptom.
Home Remedies for Uncontrollable Shivering
- Get a good rest at night, preferably at least eight to nine hours of sleep at night.
- Be sure to eat meals regularly and avoid skipping meals. Keep a snack bar or some suitable snack accessible in case you feel hunger, dizziness or uncontrollable shivering during the day.
- Exercise regularly by walking around the block or just taking a quick swim.
- Take vitamin B supplements to boost overall energy and help reduce chills.
- Relieve sudden attacks of the shivering by taking a warm, soothing bath. This can help to warm and calm your body and dissipate the chills.
- Avoid using hot water or other heating devices, especially on your extremities, because this can cause a fall in your body’s core temperature. You can take warm beverages but avoid alcohol, since this can cause your blood vessels to dilate and direct blood away from your main organs.