Why Do You Feel Cold When You Have a Fever?

feel cold with a fever

Why do you feel cold with a fever? A related question would be, why do you feel hot with a fever? Maybe a better way to put it would be, what’s a fever for in the first place? Let’s find out.

Why Get a Fever?

Your body is under attack! You have been invaded by – well, pick one. A germ. A virus. An enemy of the state of your health. And you have to defend your territory. Luckily, you don’t have to know what’s happening. Your body knows what to do.

What to do is fry the little buggers. It turns out that if you raise the temperature on ’em, they can’t reproduce. (And you don’t want them doing that in there.) But if it gets too hot for them, they die off. That’s why bringing down a fever at the first sign of heat isn’t necessarily a good idea.

And What Are Chills?

Chills are the body’s way of warming you up. If you go out in the snow in your bikini, at some point you’re going to get chills – you start shivering and your teeth start chattering. Because your body thinks you’ve forgotten about the temperature, and maybe you have. If you just sit there, the cold will seep in pretty fast. But chills, muscles clenching and unclenching rapidly, actually do warm you up.

But Isn’t 102°F Hot Enough?

Maybe it is. But the theory goes that you feel cold with a fever because the body (your hypothalamus, to be specific) raises your internal temperature setpoint. So instead of just feeling the heat of your fever, your body is also feeling the “cold.” And that’s now the difference between your new setpoint and the current temperature. So it gives you chills to recruit you into doing your part in raising your temperature.


It may be counterintuitive, but when you feel cold with a fever, your body is actually trying to make you well. Give it a chance. And by the way, it can’t hurt to call your doctor.