Medically reviewed by Kashif J. Piracha, MD
Body aches and chills often occur with or before a fever. But you can also experience them without being sick or running a fever. Body aches are typically due to inflammation (swelling) or muscle tension. Chills (shivering) are how the body warms itself up. They are the result of the muscles rapidly contracting and relaxing.
Having body aches and chills without a fever can occur for multiple reasons, including:
Chronic health conditions
Infections (sometimes they cause a fever, but not always)
Understanding and treating the root cause of body aches and chills with no fever can help you find relief. This article reviews some causes of body aches and chills without a fever. It also covers home remedies and what to do if your symptoms worsen or don’t go away.
Causes: Why Do I Have Body Aches and Chills but No Fever?
Infection, illness, inflammation, allergies, or immune system problems can cause body aches and chills. But this can happen for less alarming reasons, including weather, stress, and other lifestyle factors.
Cold weather or consistently working with cold substances can trigger body aches and chills. When you get cold, the blood vessels near your skin constrict (narrow). Your body does this to conserve heat and keep your vital organs (heart, brain, etc.) warm.
This constriction causes blood flow to decrease peripherally, activating internal heating mechanisms like shivering or muscle contraction to warm up, causing chills, aches, or stiffness.
When you feel stress or anxiety, your body releases adrenaline (a chemical that gives you a quick burst of energy when the brain perceives danger), known as the fight-or-flight response.
Fight-or-flight causes your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense. The muscle tension, especially with persistent stress, can cause body aches. Chills can occur with stress because it can alter how your body controls temperature.
Dehydration is when you don’t have enough fluids in your body. It can occur because you aren’t drinking enough or your body is getting rid of fluid too fast. Your body may lose fluid too quickly due to vomiting or diarrhea, excessive sweating or urination, skin burns or infections, or malnutrition.
Your body needs water for most of its functions. So, dehydration can cause some surprising symptoms and cause you to feel bad.
It can make your heart work extra hard to push blood out to the rest of the body. Since water is an important component of muscle tissue, dehydration leads to body aches. It can also make it more difficult for the body to regulate temperature, causing chills.
Your body may also raise your temperature in an attempt to kill the virus. Sometimes, this results in chills, a fever, or both. You can also get chills before getting a fever.
Loss of taste or smell
Upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting
Shortness of breath
You can also have COVID-19 without displaying any symptoms.
Bacterial infections, such as strep throat, pneumonia, and Lyme disease, result in body aches or chills with or without a fever for reasons similar to viral infections. Some bacteria release toxins that cause inflammation, resulting in muscle aches. Also, the immune system responds to bacteria by releasing chemicals that cause inflammation and discomfort.
Chills can occur when the body tries to raise its temperature to kill the bacteria. This happens before a fever or without the body temperature getting high enough to be a fever.
Examples of medications that can cause body aches or chills include:
Certain antibiotics (medicines for bacterial infections)
Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs)
Narcotic (opiate pain medication) side effects or withdrawal
Serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant
Chemotherapy (cancer treatment)
While this is not an exhaustive list, examples of chronic conditions that could cause these body aches and chills without a fever include:
Hypothyroidism (affects how the body regulates temperature)
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Polymyalgia rheumatica (an inflammatory condition that causes muscle pain, especially in the shoulders)
Endometriosis (a gynecological condition that causes tissue similar to that of the uterus to grow outside of the uterus, causing pain)
Congestion, sneezing, or watery eyes are common seasonal allergy symptoms. While less common, allergies can also cause body aches and chills when the immune system sees the allergen as a threat and activates an inflammatory response.
Lack of Sleep
Altered immune system
For some people, menstrual (period) cramps can cause nausea, headaches, body aches, and chills. This is most likely due to the prostaglandins (chemicals that cause inflammation) the body releases during menstruation.
Hormone changes can contribute to inflammation and changes in how the body regulates temperature. For example, if estrogen levels drop, females may experience night sweats, hot flashes, and body aches. Chills can follow hot flashes or night sweats as the body tries to cool down.
Home Remedies for Body Aches and Chills
Reducing chills and body aches depends on the underlying cause. Here are some ways to find relief at home.
Sometimes, rest and a warm bath or shower, a warm compress, heating pads, or a hot water bottle can help warm you up and relax your muscles. Consider adding Epsom salt to your bathwater for added benefits.
If dehydration is the culprit, symptoms typically resolve once you consume enough fluids. Keep a bottle or glass of water close by and drink regularly.
If you don’t have a fever, consider warm lemon water, herbal teas, or clear broths to help warm the body. Ginger tea is a good choice as it can help decrease inflammation.
Gentle exercises like stretching, Pilates, yoga, or walking can help reduce muscle aches, increase blood flow to the body, and decrease stress. However, it’s important not to overdo it, as overly strenuous exercise can cause muscle strain and body aches.
Over the Counter (OTC) Medications
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen) can help relieve inflammation and block pain. NSAIDS can cause stomach ulcers and kidney injury, while Tylenol should be used with caution in people with liver disease.
If you think allergies could be the underlying cause, consider OTC allergy medications.
Consult a healthcare provider before beginning new medicines (including OTC medications), vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies. They could interact with other medications or cause complications for those with certain health conditions.
Relaxation and Stress Management
Stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, can calm and relax the body and mind, decreasing stress. You can try simple deep breathing by inhaling deeply through the nose, holding your breath for a few seconds, and exhaling slowly through the mouth.
Or, you can try the 4-7-8 breathing technique as follows:
Take a deep breath in through your nose for four seconds.
Hold your breath for seven seconds.
Exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.
Repeat several times.
Some studies show that magnesium supplementation helps decrease stress and pain, especially for those with chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia or restless leg syndrome. It also helps increase sleep quality.
Many people take magnesium pills orally, but others use it topically (rubbing magnesium oil or lotion on their feet, legs, hands, etc.).
Medical treatment depends on the underlying cause. For example, you may need medications to treat an underlying chronic illness or antibiotics for a bacterial infection. Chronic stress could require help from a mental health professional through treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
Signs of Worsening Body Aches and Chills
The following are signs that the underlying cause of body aches and chills requires medical attention:
High fever, above 102 degrees F
Severe pain not relieved by over-the-counter medications or home remedies
Persistent symptoms that go on for several days or get worse.
Difficulty breathing, chest pain
Confusion or changes in mental alertness
Rash or changes in the skin, including redness and swelling
Nausea and vomiting
Joint pain and stiffness, especially if it persists
Notify a healthcare provider if you have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or a weakened immune system.
Body aches and chills can occur with or without a fever. While an infection or illness can be the underlying cause, this can also result from cold exposure, stress, allergies, dehydration, or medications.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. For example, heat therapy can help with cold exposure or muscle tension. However, an infection may require antiviral or antibiotic medication. If home treatment does not resolve symptoms or they worsen, seek medical attention.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.