14 possible causes of shivering

shivering
Shivering is a natural bodily response to various situations. Here are 14 causes of shivering, which include dehydration, temperature drop, and infection.

There are numerous reasons why a person may experience shaking.

  • Shivering is a common bodily reaction that occurs when the body attempts to warm itself.
  • It is the rapid contraction and relaxation of muscles to generate heat in the body.

Shivering is a natural response that can occur in various situations for various reasons.

Here are 14 causes of shivering:

  1. Dehydration:
    • Dehydration, or lack of fluids, is a common potential cause of why a person shivers.
    • When a person does not drink enough water, sweats excessively, or loses fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, the body's fluid balance is disrupted.
    • If fluids are not replenished quickly, the blood thickens, and the entire body goes into a state of alarm, causing cramping or shaking.
  2. Temperature drop and fever:
    • When the temperature drops below your body's comfort level, rapid contraction, and relaxation of muscles begin, resulting in a visible shiver.
    • Because this process requires energy and produces heat, it helps keep you warm for a while by increasing the production of body surface heat.
    • Another common cause of shivering is fever, which occurs due to an infection, allergic reaction, or inflammation that causes an increase in body temperature.
  3. Age: 
    • The risk of shivering increases with age because the body’s ability to tolerate cold begins to deteriorate.
    • Furthermore, as people age, they develop various health issues, including a decreased ability to tolerate cold.
    • Due to the lack of fat in their bodies, some children feel colder than adults. As a result, they start shivering quickly.
  4. Low body weight:
    • When you are underweight, you may not have enough body fat to insulate you from the cold.
    • If you don’t eat enough, your metabolism may struggle to generate enough heat. This is especially true if you’re on a restrictive diet or have an eating disorder.
  5. Infection:
    • There may be times when your body is not cold, but you begin to shiver. This type of unexpected shivering could be a sign of a bacterial or viral infection that your body is fighting.
    • The heat produced by muscle contraction and relaxation aids in warming your body and fighting the infection that has infiltrated your system.
    • The heat produced by the process is sufficient to kill infection-causing bacteria and keep you healthy and disease-free.
  6. Low blood sugar level:
    • People with diabetes must take extra precautions because a drop in blood sugar level can cause shivering.
    • Trembling, feeling cold, shaky, weak, dizzy, and sweating can all be symptoms of a blood sugar drop.
    • These reactions can occur when a person hasn’t eaten in a long time and can impair the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels.
  7. Hypothyroidism:
    • A faulty thyroid causes a drop in pulse pressure, indicating poor heart function.
    • Because blood flow is diverted away from the skin, the extremities become cold.
    • If you notice any of these symptoms, see a doctor to be tested. Most people quickly regain their normal energy levels and feel warmer after beginning treatment.
  8. Anemia:
    • Iron is a mineral that helps your red blood cells transport oxygen throughout your body, bringing heat and other nutrients to every cell.
    • When you don’t have enough iron, your red blood cells can’t do their job properly, and you get cold. Iron is important because lack of it can cause your thyroid to become sluggish, leading to hypothyroidism, which can make you feel even colder.
  9. Poor circulation:
    • If your extremities (fingers and toes) are the only parts of your body that are cold, it may be due to poor blood circulation.
    • The cause could be anything from your heart's inability to effectively pump blood to blood vessel narrowing or an artery blockage.
  10. After getting an anesthetic:
    • During operations, anesthesia is administered. When the anesthesia wears off and you regain consciousness, you may begin to shiver.
    • The exact reason for this is unknown. One possible explanation is that the operating room is usually cold, which causes your body temperature to drop and you to feel cold because you have been lying motionless for a long time.
    • Some types of sedation can cause changes in your body temperature.
  11. Sleep deprivation:
    • Researchers are still unsure why this occurs, but studies report that not getting enough sleep may affect how efficiently your hypothalamus (which regulates body temperature) works.
    • Moreover, when you're tired, your metabolism slows down, resulting in less heat and slower circulation.
  12. Psychogenic movement disorders:
    • Mental stress can manifest itself in more ways than you can imagine, and it is one of the factors that can cause shivering and other involuntary movements.
    • Shivering caused by psychological movement disorder can be sudden and without warning and be caused by depression or another underlying health issue.
    • It can be triggered by the memory of a traumatic event and eventually stop if a person is distracted.
    • A combination of physical and mental therapy can be used to treat psychological movement disorders. Shivering is one of the most common bodily responses to this disorder because there is no nerve or underlying brain damage.
  13. Fear, stress, anxiety, or excitement:
    • There are times when shivering has nothing to do with the temperature or your health and is caused by some strong emotions. Shivering is our body's reaction to what is going on in our brain.
    • Shivering can be caused by strong emotions such as stress, fear, excitement, and anxiety due to a surge of adrenaline in the body.
    • As part of the body's fight-or-flight response, the adrenaline hormone causes shivering.
    • Shivering can be caused by a sudden increase in adrenaline levels in the blood.
  14. Extreme physical exertion:
    • When you exercise, your body temperature increases and sweat is produced to prevent overheating. Your core temperature drops after a long run or other strenuous exercises.
    • This drop, together with a layer of sweat against your skin, can cause you to shiver because your body attempts to return to normal temperature.

How do I stop shivering?

The most common causes of shivering are extreme cold weather or infections.

You can try some of the precautions listed below to avoid shivering:

  • Wear warm clothing in the winter.
  • Consume warm water and other hot beverages.
  • Maintain good hygiene to avoid infection, especially during flu season.
  • If you are worried, anxious, or stressed, try meditation, yoga, or other calming techniques.
  • Consuming fruits such as bananas and grapes, for example, can aid in the treatment of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If you are unable to keep your blood sugar levels normal, eating sweet candy can be quite beneficial. If your blood sugar drops frequently, keep a snack in hand.
  • Get up and walk around, jog in place, or do some jumping jacks. With exercise and activity, your body naturally warms up.
  • Consume a well-balanced diet high in protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
    • Check to see if you're getting enough B vitamins. These are required by the body to convert the food we eat into energy. This vitamin class is found in grains such as brown rice, barley, and oats, as well as lean protein and oily fish.

Shivering can be controlled with a wide range of medications.

In general, the most commonly used agents fall into one of the following categories:

The normal body temperature range is about 97°F to 99°F. However, our body’s response to a cold environment varies from person to person.

When your body becomes too cold, its natural response is to tighten and relax the muscles in rapid succession because this act helps generate heat. The act of shivering alone is insufficient to combat the cold, and we must implement other methods of warming up to put a stop to it.

Recurrent episodes of shivering should be addressed by doctors for treating underlying health conditions.

Is shivering a symptom of COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a list of new symptoms associated with coronavirus cases.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are already known to be similar to those of the common flu or cold, including fever, coughing, and breathing difficulties. However, the CDC has recently reported that people are experiencing new symptoms such as repeated shaking or shivering with chills, muscle pain, headache, and new loss of taste or smell.

If you have COVID-19 and develop a high fever and cough with difficulty breathing, you may have COVID-19 pneumonia.

  • Elderly people, smokers, and people with underlying health conditions are at a high risk of pneumonia.
  • The doctor will conduct tests such as a chest computed tomography scan to find out the extent of lung involvement and initiate the required treatment.

It should be noted, however, that shivering alone may not be a symptom of COVID-19.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/6/2022
References
Image Source: Getty Images

Patient education: Tremor (Beyond the Basics): https://www.uptodate.com/contents/tremor-beyond-the-basics/print

5 Reasons Why You Might Have the Chills: https://www.keckmedicine.org/5-reasons-why-you-might-have-the-chills/

Chills: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21476-chills