You wake up one morning with a sore, scratchy throat, feeling a little run down. The next night, your throat pain gets even worse, and you experience mild fever, with sweats and chills. Your nose is a little stuffy and runny. Your muscles ache. You're feeling even more tired. After a few days, your symptoms slowly improve, and in retrospect, you conclude that it was a passing cold.
This is a description of the classic cold, where once you catch a cold virus, it invades your body, releasing toxins and chemicals which causes fever, aches, and general fatigue. But what if I told you that the same symptoms can happen due to an allergy attack, or whenever the weather changes, or even during menopause?
About once or twice every month, I see young men who complain of hot flashes, night sweats, chills, and fever. This occurs for weeks to months. But this history isn't consistent with a typical cold. What's going on?
Whenever your involuntary nervous system is upset or imbalanced, it reacts with what are called vasomotor symptoms. This particular part of your nervous system is what normally controls sweating, temperature, blood flow, digestion, and other automatic body functions. So technically, you can have fever, chills, and even sweats from this reaction.
What then can cause this type of reaction? Let me answer by giving you the story of someone I saw this past week. He was a young man who noticed a mild sore throat 4 days prior to seeing me, and by the next morning, had a horrible sore throat. That night, he felt hot, had some sweats and shaking chills. He felt much more tired than usual, and also had some muscle aches. He saw his medical doctor that same say and was given a strong antibiotic, but didn't feel any better over the next few days.
When I saw him, I was expecting to see the typical tonsillitis with pusses out tonsils, but was surprised to find only mild inflammation and swelling. An endoscopic exam revealed severe narrowing of the space behind the tongue, made much worse when on his back.
It turns out that on the night previous to the onset of his sore throat, he had been out eating and drinking later than usual. He also normally prefers to sleep on his stomach, but felt that his sore throat might improve is he slept on his back, as he's heard about the health benefits of sleeping on his back.
What happened to this patient was that by eating and drinking late, more of his stomach juices were forced up into his throat over the first night. Then, as more swelling arose in the throat, more frequent obstructions and arousals occurred, leading to more reflux of gastric contents into the throat, adding to the swelling in the throat, along with much less efficient sleep.
Lack of deep, efficient sleep causes a physiologic stress response that makes your involuntary system overly sensitive. Hypersensitivity of your involuntary nervous system can lead to vasomotor symptoms, such as fever, hot flashes or sweats. This is why as women go through this process (since progesterone, which stiffens tongue muscle tone, relaxes), symptoms can occur. The same thing can happen when young men are slowly gaining weight.
All I recommended for him to do was to go back to sleeping on his back, and avoid eating or drinking within 3-4 hours of bedtime.
Do you get sore throats in the morning, or have fever, chills or sweats at night?