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What are the Most Common Causes of Diarrhea with Chills?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The symptoms of diarrhea with chills most commonly signal either a viral or bacterial infection. These are often known as "stomach flu" and "food poisoning" respectively. While the term "stomach flu" isn't medically correct, as viruses other than influenza are the cause, bacterial infections that cause symptoms such as diarrhea, or loose stools, and chills are usually caused by spoiled food or undercooked seafood. Another common cause of diarrhea with chills may involve stones in the gallbladder or bile duct.

Gallbladder stones, which are mainly made of excess cholesterol, are called cholelithiasis, while stones in the bile duct are choledocholitiasis. A person may have the stones for a long time before noticing any symptoms. When stones cause blockage, symptoms such as chills and fever with diarrhea as well as yellowing of the skin called jaundice usually occur. Pain in the upper right abdomen, a fast heart beat and sudden low blood pressure are other signs of bile duct problems; medical attention should be sought immediately as it may be an emergency situation. Chronic diarrhea, which is bouts of very loose stool at least four times a day for several months, that may include pain and nausea as well as chills, could be a sign of scarring and inflammation of the gallbladder.

Vibrio cholerae is a common bacterial cause of chills and diarrhea. This bacterial infection may enter the body through seafood. Raw or undercooked seafood is especially likely to contaminate a person. In addition to chills plus diarrhea, nausea, headache and stomach cramps are typical symptoms of Vibrio cholerae. Vomiting is a less common symptom of the bacterial infection.

Viral gastroenteritis is one of the most common causes of diarrhea with chills. There are many different viruses that can cause the intestinal infection known as gastroenteritis. Children and seniors are especially susceptible to many of theses viruses, but anyone can get gastroenteritis since it's extremely contagious. Astrovirus is one that especially infects seniors and kids, while both the rotavirus and adenovirus commonly cause gastroenteritis in young children. Norovirus, from the group of caliciviruses, is known for being spread to people of all ages and for first causing vomiting before fever, chills and diarrhea.

Unwashed hands after using the bathroom is how gastritis is mainly transferred, but sharing foods or drinks can also spread it. Although it's more serious in infants and the elderly, most other cases of viral gastroenteritis go away without any medical treatment required. Avoiding dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting by drinking water and juices is important. Even when people experiencing viral gastroenteritis stop showing symptoms, such as diarrhea and chills, they can still pass the virus to others.

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Discussion Comments
By bythewell — On Sep 29, 2013

I've only had food poisoning a couple of times in my life, but it was terrible. Both times I was so sick that I could barely move from the toilet.

Unfortunately, there isn't really any kind of diarrhea cure that will work, except time. Most medications only mask the symptoms.

My family basically draped a blanket over me so I wouldn't suffer too much from the fever and fed me liquids until I started to feel better.

By KoiwiGal — On Sep 28, 2013

@croydon - That's why, with diarrhea, it's so important to keep the person hydrated and well fed. It's the one time I think it's OK to drink a lot of sports drinks, since they help to replace all the nutrients that are being leached out.

Treating diarrhea is fairly simple if it's not too severe, but it's very important to make sure you don't get to the point where you are dehydrated before you start to take in fluids.

People should be drinking lots of water everyday anyway, but it's even more important when they have a stomach upset.

And the advice in the article is also right, in that you might try to have a banana as well. Not just for the bulk, but also for the sugars and the potassium.

By croydon — On Sep 28, 2013

I've noticed that I can get chills for two different reasons when I've got a bad stomach complaint. The bad one is when I've got a fever, which usually shows up as night sweats with chills and generally means I've got food poisoning or some kind of infection. That can be dangerous, so if you've got a bad fever and bad diarrhea, I'd recommend that you go to the doctor as soon as possible, particularly if it's a child with the symptoms.

The other reason I might get chills is if I've let myself get too dehydrated. It makes my temperature go wonky, even if I don't technically have a fever, and it's something that can easily happen when I'm not feeling well.

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