Q. My husband has extreme shivering and profuse sweating at night. Should we take him to the ER?

Answered by
Dr. Jeremy David O'kennedy
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
Published on Mar 26, 2017

Hi doctor,

My husband was in a below-freezing weather all weekend, day and night, for military training. Nine of the men he was with went to the hospital for various cold weather injuries. Since coming home, he has been suffering from what seems like a cold in the daytime, but at night, he has extreme shivering and profuse sweating. The whole bed shakes, he has been having this for two nights in a row. Multiple sheets, blankets, and towels get soaked in his sweat. He does not have a fever during this, and his body temperature is a bit low every time we check. His daytime symptoms consist of a sore throat, fatigue, aches, and congestion, but very rarely chills or sweating. He is currently taking steroid inhaler for lung scarring. We have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, but should we take him to the ER today?

Dr. Jeremy David O'kennedy

General Medicine HIV/AIDS Specialist Internal Medicine


Welcome to icliniq.com.

  • What you are describing sounds like the starting stages of a respiratory tract infection (RTI).
  • Viral respiratory tract infections, especially influenza, are more common during colder periods of the year and have a high incidence in military settings. Virus or bacterial organisms easily spread from one person to another, due to scores of individuals nearby and regular contact as well as travel.
  • Both bacterial and viral respiratory tract infections can cause symptoms which present like episodes of fever spells, without correlation with the body temperature.
  • It is also important to remember that not all methods or devices, used to measure temperature, are accurate and measurable. Fever is often only picked up using hospital devices used by trained professionals.
  • The symptoms of episodic shivering spells, painful muscles, and joints, tiredness or weakness, sore throat, etc. are all typical of respiratory tract infections. There are also other causes of these symptoms, but they are usually only explored once the most common cause has been excluded.
  • RTI can sometimes rapidly develop into severe pneumonia or bronchitis, and it is always better to consult earlier if one is concerned, which I believe you are.
  • I would recommend having him evaluated at urgent care.

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