Uncontrollable Shivering: Common Causes and The Best Natural Treatments
Uncontrollable shivering is your body’s reaction to being exposed to cold temperatures for a length of time, a drop in blood sugar levels, fighting an infection, or being under extreme anxiety. Severe shivering is also called “rigors” and the body uses these tremors to increase its core temperature. Depending on the cause of your shivering, you may or may not have a fever with it.
If the shivering is caused by being cold, then warming yourself up will usually stop the shivering quickly. However, if the severe chills are caused by an underlying health condition like diabetes, abnormal thyroid, or anemia, then it’s important to address these medical issues. For some people, uncontrollable shaking happens with a panic attack and in those cases, the shivering should stop when the panic subsides.
This article looks at the most common causes of uncontrollable shivering and the reasons why sometimes your body starts shaking involuntarily. You will also find out some of the best natural treatments for shivering uncontrollably and if your condition requires that you see a doctor.
Shivering: Common Causes and Natural Treatments
Read on to find out what could be causing your uncontrollable body shakes and what you can do to stop the shivering naturally.
A very common reason for shivering is being very cold for a long period of time. As your body temperature drops, your brain sends signals to your muscles that cause them to shake and create more heat. While being cold and shivering is something we all feel from time to time, uncontrollable shivering or rigors could be a sign of hypothermia.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that shivering is a symptom of hypothermia and may be associated with dizziness, nausea, increased heart rate and breathing, and confusion. As the hypothermia becomes more severe, the shivering will increase. However, as the hypothermia get more serious, the shivering will eventually stop.1
Hypothermia can also affect older people even if they are exposed to small drops in temperature. The National Institute on Aging recommends that homes where elderly people live should be kept to at least 68°F to 70°F (20°C to 21°C) during wintertime.2
Putting on warm layers of clothing or blankets, drinking warm beverages, and being near to a source of heat can help to raise your body’s core temperature and stop the uncontrollable shivering.
Having the flu or common cold
If you have uncontrollable shivering, it could be a sign that your body is starting to fight an infection like the common cold or the flu virus. The chills are caused by a fever which makes the body feel colder, and the shivering tries to increase the body’s core temperature.
Dr. Jennifer Robinson on WebMD says that one of the first symptoms of the flu are periods of chills and sweats as the fever comes and goes. Along with shivering and a fever, the flu virus usually causes you to have aching muscles, fatigue, and a cough.3 Depending on the severity of your cold, you may or may not have shivering with it.
For many people, the flu usually lasts about a week, but recovery back to full health can take longer.
If you have flu-like symptoms with episodes of uncontrollable shivering, it’s essential to get plenty of rest to help your body heal itself. The shivering symptoms should stop as the body gets better and deals with the infection.
You can also take garlic to combat the severity of flu symptoms. Garlic contains a compound called allicin which has powerful antibiotic properties and can help the body fight off infections.4
To use garlic to combat colds and the flu naturally, mince up 1-2 cloves of garlic and let it stand for 10 minutes. This allows the allicin to form. Then mix the garlic with a spoonful of raw, natural honey and consume. Take the garlic remedy daily at the onset of a cold or flu to help reduce the symptoms. When using as a medicine, please remember to avoid these mistakes when using garlic.
There are other infections that can cause uncontrollable shivering. In fact, sudden chills and uncontrollable shaking are often one of the first signs of any kind of viral or bacterial infection in the body.5
Shivering could be a sign of pneumonia in some people. The rigors will usually be accompanied by a persistent cough, breathlessness, and fatigue.6 If you have a cough that doesn’t go away and think you may have pneumonia, it’s important to seek professional medical help.
Severe shivering could also be a sign of malaria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of malaria can appear up to 12 months after returning from malaria-endemic areas. The initial malaria attack is termed as a “cold stage” which makes the body shiver uncontrollably. This is followed by fever, headaches, vomiting, and sweating.7
Many infections can be prevented by keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Please read my article on the best advice on using natural remedies to boost your immune system. This can help you to stay healthy and avoid developing a viral or bacterial infection.
Low blood sugar levels
Low blood sugar levels can cause your body to start shivering and shaking uncontrollably. Low blood sugar levels commonly affect people with diabetes but they can also affect otherwise healthy people. For example, alcohol, exercise, and some herbal supplements can also cause blood sugar levels to drop and make you shiver uncontrollably.
Authority on diet and nutrition, Dr. Michael Dansinger says that hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) causes trembling, feeling shaky, hunger, sweating, and a pounding heart. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can cause you to pass out and fall into a coma.8
Dr. Dansinger recommends eating small meals frequently throughout the day to avoid drops in sugar levels and prevent episodes of shivering and uncontrollable body shakes. You should also avoid sugary foods and eat more complex carbohydrates. This can also help to prevent hypoglycemia in people who don’t have diabetes.
For more advice on managing diabetes naturally through diet, please read my article about the best foods you can eat to control diabetes naturally. To prevent diabetes, it’s important to exercise regularly, sleep well, and enjoy a healthy diet.
Extreme dehydration in children is a serious condition that can cause chills and shivering. Children can be especially prone to dehydration in hot weather and it’s important to recognize its symptoms.
Dr. Amita Shroff on WebMD says that the initial symptoms of dehydration in children are thirst, fatigue, irritability, and feeling hot. If these symptoms aren’t dealt with properly, then dehydration can lead to heat illness which causes chills, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and more.9
It’s important to drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate the body and put your child in a cool place away from the sun or heat to stop the extreme shivering and help the body’s core temperature stabilize.
Of course, dehydration is serious for adults as well as children. Although uncontrollable shivering is rarely associated with dehydration in adults, not taking in enough fluids can still cause other health issues. Dehydration can cause you to be fatigued, irritable, suffer from joint pain, and put on excess weight.
Abnormal thyroid function
Many older people who have an under-active thyroid also experience rigors and, according to some studies, it affects more women than men.10
It can take time and patience to treat an under-active thyroid naturally. To find out how to get your thyroid functioning properly again and reduce thyroid-related shivering, please read my article on the 8 home remedies for treating hypothyroidism naturally.
One reason for experiencing shivering with no fever is having anemia. Having an iron deficiency affects the body in many ways and can leave you feeling fatigued, suffering from headaches, and puts you at a higher risk of infections.
Doctors from Dallas reported on one patient who suffered from severe anemia. They reported that his symptoms were fatigue, labored breathing, fever, and chills.11
Anemia can be caused by not getting enough iron-rich foods in your diet or having a vitamin B12 deficiency. You can find articles on this website on how to increase iron levels in your blood naturally and how to naturally fix a vitamin B12 deficiency. This can help to prevent infections, feeling fatigued, and suffering from episodes of shivering.
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
A serious urinary tract infection could cause you to experience uncontrollable shivering. Urinary tract infections are quite common in women and can cause discomfort when urinating and abdominal pain. You will also notice a foul smell from your urine and it may look dark.
According to the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, if the UTI causes a kidney infection, you will have shivering and chills along with a fever and nausea.12 This is a serious medical condition which requires urgent treatment.
It’s important to treat the symptoms of a UTI as soon as they appear to prevent the infection spreading to other organs. There are many home remedies that can help to treat the symptoms of a mild UTI. For example, baking soda water can help to reduce the acidity in your urine tract. Also, studies into probiotics have found that they can help to prevent recurrent urinary tract infections in women.13
Those are just some of the natural remedies for urinary tract infections that you can find on my website.
If you have stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea after eating as well as shivering, it could be a sign that you have food poisoning. When food becomes contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites, it can cause inflammation and infection in your digestive system which causes rigors as the body tries to fight the infection.
The NHS says that signs of food poisoning can show up between a few hours and several weeks after eating contaminated food. Among the symptoms are shivering along with a fever and aching muscles.14
Although food poisoning usually only lasts a few days, there are many natural remedies that can help to relieve its symptoms. For example, drinking ginger tea for its medicinal properties can help you recover faster from food poisoning.
Ginger contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help to reduce stomach spasms, kill off infections in the gut, and soothe an inflamed intestinal tract. Ginger can also help to bring down a fever and reduce bouts of uncontrollable shivering.15
Anxiety / panic attacks
Uncontrollable shivering and body tremors with no fever could be a sign of an anxiety or panic attack. Panic attacks can come on suddenly, without any immediately identifiable trigger.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Smitha Bhandari says that during a panic attack, a person can feel chest pains, shortness of breath, and a fear of losing control. This is usually accompanied by trembling or uncontrollable shaking and having chills.16
Panic attacks are just one way that extreme emotional or physiological stress can affect the body. In order to prevent panic attacks and bouts of severe shivering that accompany them, it’s important to find ways to manage stress and anxiety better.
Many essential oils like bergamot, lavender, orange, and chamomile can help to soothe your mind and reduce stress. Please read my article on essential oils for anxiety to find out how to use them to feel calmer and more relaxed.
Shivering – When to See a Doctor
Reading this article, you will have noticed that uncontrollable shivering can be a sign of some serious medical conditions and you should always see a doctor in those cases to receive professional medical help.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that, in general, if you are shivering uncontrollably and have chest pain, nausea, sweating, and a fever of 104°F (40°C) or more, you should see a doctor immediately.17
- Chills without Fever: The Most Common Causes and Treatments
- How to Break a Fever: The Top 5 Natural Ways