Why Do You Feel Cold When You Have a Fever?

Anyone who has ever caught the flu probably knows that fever is uncomfortable because your body feels hot; it is uncomfortable because you feel like it’s freezing cold in your room, even if you’re wrapped in your blanket and wearing pajamas and socks. When you have a fever, you’re shivering, you feel goosebumps, and there might not seem to be enough covers to make you feel warm. But why do you feel cold when your body temperature is high?

Understanding Fever

Also known as pyrexia, fever is an elevation in body temperature above the normal range because there is an increase in the body’s natural set point. Some people associate fever with infections, but it can also frequently occur with drug reactions, autoimmune diseases, blood clots, and cancer. But, take note that fever is not a direct result of these said conditions; it’s a consequence of triggering the body’s inflammatory pathways. One primary member of this inflammatory cascade is a group of molecules known as pyrogens. They are the ones who directly interact with the hypothalamus in the brain, which signals our body to produce fever. The hypothalamus is the one that is responsible for our body’s thermostat, which is why when pyrogens trigger them, it tells the body to heat up by inducing goosebumps, shivering, and constrictions of blood vessels in the surface of our skin. This process also causes us to feel cold, so we often want to wrap ourselves with the thickest blanket that we have. 

All of these things happen when our body temperature falls below its usual level, which is about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, typically during cold weather. However, they become abnormal if you have a fever and your hypothalamus sends signals to your body to raise its temperature well above the normal range.

When pyrogens suddenly disappear from your bloodstream, your hypothalamus will all of a sudden sense that things are way too hot, which is why it tells your body to kick in its usual cooling-off mechanisms. That is why when your fever goes down after you take paracetamol or other fever-reducing drugs, you will notice that you will start to sweat profusely. 

What to do When You Have a Fever

Now that you know why you feel cold and shivering when you have a fever, it’s time for you to learn how to manage it and help your body temperature lower.

  • Take a rest – Engaging in any activity while you have a fever can raise your body temperature, which is why you need to rest so that your body can recover and help reduce a fever. Get enough sleep to support your immune system and drink lots of fluids so your body can fight fever-causing viruses such as the flu. 
  • Do not forget to hydrate– When you’re experiencing a fever, your body can lose a lot of fluids, leading to dehydration. This is why it is essential to drink plenty of water when you have a fever. Most experts will recommend an increase in your fluid intake as a part of a treatment plan to reduce your fever. 
  • Stay in a cool environment – Make sure that you keep your room cool and try not to wrap yourself up in a thick blanket. Sleep with only a light blanket or sheet to help you keep cooler. 
  • Taking over-the-counter medicines that reduce fever– Having a fever is not a pleasant feeling to experience. The cold, chills, headaches, and shivering can become uncomfortable, especially if you’re too tired and want to rest. That is why it is okay for you to take medicines that can help reduce fever, such as paracetamol and acetaminophen. 
  • Tepid sponging – One way to help your fever symptoms feel better is by placing a cool and damp washcloth on the back of your neck and forehead. You can also give yourself a sponge bath and focus on your high-heat areas, such as your groin and armpits. The tepid method is usually done for about five minutes.