Most people associate shivering with the feeling of being cold – the body’s natural way of trying to warm itself up. Did you know that shivering could be linked to a number of other medical conditions though?
There are a lot of reasons why you may be experience ‘the chills’ and if you are finding that these shaking episodes are becoming a regular occurrence, we would highly recommend that you seek medical advice. Unless you’re just plain cold, of course!
What is Uncontrollable Shivering?
When you have episodes of shivering or shaking, it is called rigor. It can often happen with a high fever – when you get sick with tonsillitis or another infection, you often shake under the blankets, racing between hot and cold every five minutes.
It is a reflex that your body naturally takes in order to take care of itself but the reason behind it will change from case to case. When you are cold, your body will shiver to keep things moving and generate heat. Your body has an internal thermostat and when it gets too cold, it will shiver in a bid to heat itself back up again.
When you have an infection, particularly a bacterial infection, your internal thermostat doesn’t work quite right and your body will shiver in a bid to heat itself up even when it is not cold.
Shivering will normally come hand in hand with other symptoms, especially if you are cold. You will experience goosebumps, for example, if you are a bit on the chilly side.
There are a number of other reasons why you may be experience uncontrollable shivering however, and if you are not feeling cold or unwell (with an infection), it could be one of these:
Low Blood Sugar Levels
This can often happen – when you haven’t eaten for a few hours or you haven’t had a dose of sugar, your body will shake because you are hungry and because your blood sugar levels have dipped. You will often experience other symptoms with this including heart palpitations, sweating, bouts of dizziness and even headaches.
You can have low blood sugar levels for other reasons than skipping a meal or sugar-fix too. The condition is known technically as hypoglycemia and often happens with those suffering with diabetes. If the diabetic accidentally takes in too much insulin, the body will experience a fast-paced and potentially dangerous decline in blood sugar levels.
Excessive exercise can also cause low blood sugar levels as well as low-carbohydrate or zero-carbohydrate diets, alcohol abuse and even drug abuse.
Another common reason why you might be shaking – you might be dehydrated.
When your body needs fluids, it will start to behave in rather odd ways and if you go for too long dehydrated, you may even experience hallucinations. To begin with, you will experience uncontrollable shivering and dry mouth as well as headaches and a general feeling of being rather unwell.
Your body will struggle to maintain the right temperature when it is dehydrated. Imagine what would happen if you were to turn a kettle on with no water. The element would become damaged. That’s essentially what you’re doing if you don’t drink enough fluids – you are making your body work without anything inside it. Your body is made up of 55% to 75% water so making sure you are rehydrated is wise.
If you feel dizzy, weak or fatigued with your uncontrollable shivering, there’s a chance you could be suffering with anemia. Take a look in the mirror – do you have dark circles around your eyes? If yes, you could have anemia.
You have low blood hemoglobin when you suffering with anemia, which means it has trouble binding to the iron in your body. An easy way to combat this it to take a daily supplement or multivitamin that contains iron but make sure you consult with your doctor first. Too much iron can be just as bad for you as not enough iron.
As well as bacterial infections, there are other conditions and sicknesses which could lead to bouts of uncontrollable shivering or rigor. Food poisoning or anything that makes you feel nauseous, vomit or have an upset stomach can make you shiver. So if you experience shivering with those symptoms, there’s a good chance you have an upset stomach.
A urinary tract infection is another example of an infection or sickness that can cause uncontrollable shivering although this is mostly associated with the condition spreading to the kidneys rather than a UTI by itself.
If you have a weakened immune system, you could be at risk of getting other kinds of infections such as parasitic infections. Toxoplasmosis is one condition which can be accompanied by uncontrollable shivering and will also come with symptoms such as headaches, muscle pains and aches, fatigue, swollen glands and fever or high temperatures.
Medication / Drugs
We’ve already discussed that alcohol and drug abuse can cause these bouts of uncontrollable shivering but there are some prescription medication which could have the same effect.
If you are taking any medication that causes you to shake, it could be a sign that the dose you are on is too high. A chat with your doctor will soon rectify the issue and with many medications, it is often a system of trial and error before you figure out the right dosage that works for you.
Stress & Anxiety
There are a number of emotional and mental disorders which can cause shaking and shivering. This kind of body reaction is actually normal to certain situations and is normally caused by an onset of hormones. You are also likely to experience symptoms such as dry mouth, dizziness, light-headedness and even a reduced body temperature.
Preventing Uncontrollable Shivering
In cases where the cause is low blood sugar, a simple sugary snack can help with uncontrollable shivering but in other, more serious cases such as diabetes, medical intervention might be necessary.
Getting a good night’s sleep and keeping your stress levels down is another great way to reduce stress and anxiety hormones which can make any medical condition worse, and regularly exercising as well as a healthy balance diet can help to keep your body healthy and fit from the inside out.