All That Shivers Is Not A Cold

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?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “All That Shivers Is Not A Cold

  1. I've had these symptoms after bad reflux from GERD, and I wonder if it isn't a case of aspiration into the lungs causing a mild pulmonary infection or inflammation?
    These episodes have totally disappeared for me since starting CPAP.  

  2. Reflux is one of the events that occur along with apneas, since you’re going to suction up your stomach juices into your esophagus and throat. These juices can also go into your lungs, nose or ears. Even if you didn’t have aspiration, it’s possible to have vasomotor symptoms (fever, chills, sweats) from untreated obstructive sleep apnea. Notice how once you began to treat your sleep apnea condition, your vasomotor symptoms improved.

  3. My husband is 29 and in very good health. He got badly sunburned this weekend and that night got jaw chattering shivers to go with his flaming hot skin. The next morning his throat was sore. Then more shivers then hot, shivers then hot. His cold shivers was so extreme it seemed almost like someone in shock, I had to help him breath through it to calm his system down. It’s been 5 days since his burn, and the pain is gone, skin peeling, but still has a sore throat, swollen glands, and for the last 4 nights, DRENCHING night sweats. Like if someone poured a bucket ofwater over the bed. He feels ok during the day, but has had a low grade fever for 2 days now like between 99-100.5. I don’t know, I’m feeling worried as again tonight we’ve had to change the bed twice already. I’m not sure if the sunburn and sweats and throat are related. I’m worried something is wrong with my healthy husband. Sounds like your article could apply to this Any thoughts? Thank you.

  4. Yesterday, I woke up with a sore throat and a mild cough. I felt like this all day until, later at night, I felt worse. I woke up today and have a pressure headache, a mild soar throut, and I’m hot when I lay down in bed but I’m cold when I get up. I also have a fever and excessive sweating. I’m going on a trip in 4 days and I want to get better.

  5. I suffer from hiatis hernia and also have strep throut cased by bacterial infection at the moment. The symtoms of both feel very different. The pain caused by infection is far more severe with very obvious visual signs, which differ from a sore throat from reflux. GERD pain will likly effect the stomach and lower esohoicul area also. It seems his first medical appointment was done by a bad doctor.

  6. Good clear information. I have the cough, chills followed by hot flashes. The cough wakes me, the chills follow despite flannel sheets, pjs, electric blanket. The chills are “deep” and not skin surface. Then I get the hot flash. I am no longeron HRT, about one year free. The sleep disruptions, vasomotor description sound logical.

    P.S. I like the nod to Gilbert & Sullivan in your subtitle. Pinafore?

  7. My daughter gets recurrent very sore throats, sweating but no fever, dry cough and sometimes a headache. this happens every 5 weeks – for the last two years. She is only 14. We are in hell. She is tortured by this condition but nothing has helped. Tonsils out, prednisone, anitbiotics, penicilin – do you have any idea – she has had multiple blood tests, swabs,

  8. I have had the sore throat for 5 days now I have the stuffy nose the going hot and sweaty like I’m in a over and the sweat smells like gone of vinegar and cold like a frezzer where I’m shaking like as if I was in one its nearly impossible to swollow water or soft food can u plz help me and tell me how to sort this problem plz