When an infant or young child exhibits a high temperature accompanied by chills and shivers, these symptoms could be related to a variety of different maladies. Although fevers are more common in children than adults, fever accompanied by shivers in a child under 1 year should be monitored closely, as high fevers in infants can quickly become serious health concerns.
Shivering and chills are typically associated with fever -- a temporary increase in body temperature above the norm of 98.6 degrees. Most of the time, a fever shouldn't be cause for concern, as it is part of the body's response to fight infection by raising body temperature. Shivers, which often accompany a fever, are caused by rapid muscle contraction and relaxation that are meant to raise the body's temperature. Because most bacteria and viruses thrive only at normal body temperature, a fever is the body's attempt to kill these pathogens before they can spread.
Children are more prone to fevers than adults and tend to get higher fevers than adults as well. In fact, a fever in a child is a sign that a child is healthy, as a fever is a normal response to infection. Fever and accompanying chills in children are typically due to somewhat benign conditions such as the common cold or flu viruses. Other causes of fever might include infections of the ear, throat or sinus and bronchitis. Viral gastroenteritis and bacterial gastroenteritis can also also cause fever and chills in children, as can urinary tract infections. Certain immunizations may also cause a child to have a low-grade fever for a day or two after.
More Serious Causes
A child's fever may be a sign of a more serious medical condition. Fever in children can be caused by infections such as pneumonia, appendicitis, tuberculosis and meningitis, while serious — albeit less-common — conditions resulting in fever include blood clots and reactions to certain medications. Fever can also be the first symptom in certain types of cancer, especially Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia. Chills and shivers can also be symptomatic of hypothermia and malaria.
Although fever in infants and young children is normal, it can quickly become serious and should be closely monitored; if a child under 1 year develops a fever and accompanying chills, parents should seek immediate medical attention. A parent shouldn't be overly concerned with reducing a child's temperature to a "normal" level, but should instead focus on helping the child feel comfortable, since the child's fever is a normal response to fighting infection. However, parents should also take care that the measures they take to reduce a child's fever don't have the opposite effect. For example, a lukewarm bath can be effective in making a feverish child more comfortable, but a cold bath, ice or alcohol rub will cool the skin but can cause shivering that could raise the body temperature even higher.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be effective in reducing a child's fever, but it's important to know your child's body weight in order to administer the appropriate dose by following the instructions in the medicine's packaging. Check with your child's pediatrician or family doctor before you give any medicine to a child under the age of 3 months, and don't give children under 12 aspirin, which can result in a fatal condition known as Reye's syndrome.