Illnesses That Can Cause Body Aches but No Fever
Though illnesses that cause body aches are often accompanied by a fever, this is not always the case. In this article, I'll go through some of the things that could be causing your body aches.
If you don't have a fever but are experiencing body aches, it's most likely that you either have the cold or a strain of the flu. Though children often experience a low-grade fever with a cold, most adults don't get a fever with a cold. The flu also usually presents with a fever as well as body aches, though this is not true in every case.
Illnesses That Can Cause Body Aches Without a Fever
Type of Pain
Some Other Symptoms
Severe aches in the muscles and joints is one of the hallmark symptoms of the flu
Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly.
Extreme fatigue, dry cough, sore throat and runny nose, fever, headache, pain and tiredness around eyes
The common cold
Body aches all over
Cold symptoms appear over the course of a few days
Similar to flu but less severe — fever not usually present and if it is, it is usually low-grade
Body aches similar to flu
Coughing greenish, yellow, or bloody mucus; being out of breath
High fever, chills and shakes, feeling out of breath, rapid breathing, sharp chest pain
Symptoms last for a long time (1-2 months)
Sore throat, swollen lymph nodes all over the body, fatigue, loss of appetite
Throat is very sore (often with white patches), and there is no cough
Fever, swollen lymph nodes, red dots on back of roof of mouth, swollen tonsils
Stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity
Pain is mostly felt in joints, especially hands and feet
Can vary depending on the type of arthritis
Constant dull ache that has lasted for more than 3 months
Length of time of symptoms
Mental fog, fatigue, sleep disorders, mood disorders
Many, but not all, people who suffer from lupus develop a distinguishing butterfly-shape rash on the face
Symptoms can vary widely from case to case
The Common Cold
Colds are caused by hundreds of different viruses. Once a cold virus enters your body, the response of the immune system is to immediately confront it. Some of the results of this immune system reaction are the standard cold symptoms of coughing, sneezing, nasal congestion, and body aches.
The symptoms of a cold and of the flu are very similar. In general, the symptoms of the flu are much more severe than those of the cold. You'll feel much more tired and sick, whereas with a cold, you'll just feel kind of lousy.
Symptoms of a Cold
- Sore throat
- Runny nose (clear, water mucus – not yellow or green at the start; it may turn darker and thicker as the virus runs its course)
- Body aches
According to WebMD1, symptoms of a cold develop one to three days after being infected and they last for three to seven days.
Most people do not need to see a doctor to treat the cold. You can treat at home with rest, plenty of fluids, and over-the-counter medication to treat body aches, headaches, or other cold symptoms.
See a Doctor If:
- You develop a fever — usually people with colds don't develop a fever
- You cough up thick or dark mucus
- Your cough doesn't get better in a few weeks
- Your symptoms are very severe, are getting worse, or have lasted longer than two weeks
- You have shortness of breath
- Your infant has a cold, or you're pregnant or breastfeeding and develop a cold, your cold worsens after the 3rd day
Though many people who get the flu will also develop a fever, it is also possible to have the flu without one.2 This is called afebrile influenza.
Symptoms of the Flu
It is usually pretty clear when someone comes down with the flu. According to Harvard Medical School,3 symptoms usually develop from one to four days after exposure to the virus and last for five to seven days.
Here are some of the common signs:
- The infection begins very quickly, without any forewarning
- Feeling sore and sick all over, including in your back, legs, and arms
- A dry, hacking cough that does not produce phlegm
- Fatigue and weakness that makes it hard to get up from bed
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
- Sore throat
How to Treat the Flu
Most people do not need to see a doctor to treat the flu. Since it is a viral infection, the doctor cannot prescribe any medication to make it go away and it simply needs to run its course. You should:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen to manage the aches and pains
When You Should See a Doctor
According to the Center for Disease Control,4 most people do not need to see a doctor to treat the flu. In fact, it's better to stay at home to prevent spreading it to other people. There are some people, however, who have a high risk of complications. These groups should see a doctor when experiencing symptoms so they can be diagnosed properly.
High-risk groups include:
- Young children
- People 65 and older
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic health conditions
For everyone else, you should see a doctor only if:
- You develop difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that go away but then come back with fever and worse cough
Not all flu diagnoses require laboratory tests, but it can help make a diagnosis more certain. For instance, if a patient is afebrile (has no fever), a quick test will help the doctor predict the duration and prescribe the right treatment.
Also, if you catch it in time (no more than 2 days after symptoms first develop), the doctor may be able to prescribe anti-viral medication to help reduce the amount of time flu stays in your body.
Rapid influenza tests can give results in 15 minutes. Other clinical tests include drawing labs or taking samples from the respiratory tract.
Symptoms: Flu vs. Cold
Moderate to severe
Absent or mild
Onset of symptoms
3-6 hours after exposure
Have you ever had body aches without a fever?
According to WebMD,5 sometimes it can be difficult to know if you have pneumonia because the symptoms can either be confused with a cold or the flu, and they often overlap. This is because the same germs that cause the flu or a cold can cause pneumonia if it gets into your lungs.
One signal that you've come down with pneumonia is that you start feeling better after the cold or the flu, and then come down with more symptoms again that are much worse.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
- Can include all the symptoms of the flu (see above)
- High fever up to 105 degrees F
- Chills that cause you to shake
- Feeling out-of-breath or like you can't catch your breath
- Low appetite
- Feeling exhausted
- Sharp or stab-like pain in your chest when you breathe deep
- Fast breathing or rapid heartbeat
- Lips or fingernails turning blue
When to See a Doctor
You should go to a physician if you have a cold or the flu that does not get better with treatment and rest, if the symptoms start to get worse, if you have some of the above symptoms, or if you're part of a high-risk group (see above).
According to the American Lung Association,6 there are a number of ways your physician might diagnose you with pneumonia. The most common include listening to and X-raying your lungs, though some people might need other kinds of tests, like blood tests or sputum tests.
Treatment will vary depending on what kind of pneumonia you have, how severe it is, and whether or not you have other chronic illnesses. Most cases can be treated at home by getting lots of rest, drinking lots of fluids, using over-the-counter medications, and following any other instructions your doctor gives you. Most otherwise healthy people usually start feeling better within a week.
In some cases, especially with high-risk groups, treatment may involve hospitalization, in which case the recovery process will look much different.
According to WebMD,7 mono is an infection of the Epstein-Barr virus. Many people infected with the virus, especially adults over 24 and young children, show no symptoms at all. Young children may exhibit a fever. Those most likely to show symptoms are people between the ages of 15 and 24.
If symptoms are present, they may include:
- Fever between 101-104 degrees F
- Sore throat, often with patches on the tonsils that may look like strep
- Swollen lymph nodes all over the body, especially in the neck
- Body aches
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Swollen spleen (located in the upper left quadrant of your abdomen)
Symptoms usually start four to six weeks after exposure and go away after about one or two months.
When to See a Doctor
According to the Mayo Clinic,8 if symptoms go away and then come back or if they don't get any better within a week or two, even with plenty of rest and a healthy diet, you should see a doctor.
Your doctor may diagnose you based on a physical exam and a description of your symptoms, how long they've lasted, and how severe they are. They may also run tests on your blood to confirm the virus' presence.
Since mono is a virus, antibiotics will not be effective in fighting it. Treatment usually simply consists of rest, good nutrition, and drinking lots of water.
You might need to seek treatment, however, for secondary infections.
Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection most common in children though it can affect people of all ages. It usually (but not always) develops with a fever.
According to the Mayo Clinic,9 if you come down with strep throat you may experience:
- Throat pain that develops quickly
- Painful swallowing
- Red, swollen tonsils sometimes streaked with pus
- Tender lymph nodes in the neck
- Body aches
- Nausea or vomiting, especially in younger kids
You will need to see a doctor to determine that what you're experiencing is strep throat.
Note: Step throat does not usually cause a cough. If you have a cough and a sore throat, it's more likely that you either have a cold or the flu.
You'll need to see a doctor for diagnosis of strep throat — they can perform a quick test to determine if it is, in fact, the cause of your illness. If it is strep, they'll prescribe antibiotics to help kill the bacteria.
When to See a Doctor
According to the Mayo Clinic,9 call your physician if you are experiencing:
- Sore throat with tender, swollen lymph nodes
- Sore throat that lasts over 48 hours
- Sore throat with a rash
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Fever over 101 degrees F, or a fever lasting for more than 48 hours
It's important to identify strep throat for a number of reasons. If untreated, strep throat can cause complications such as kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever.
Strep is different from the regular sore throat that usually precedes a flu or a cold because it is bacterial in nature, while the latter is viral. Strep throat is typically more severe and lasts longer as well.
While a regular sore throat might last for one to two days before going away on its own, strep throat usually requires treatment.
Antibiotics are prescribed to treat strep throat with over-the-counter medications used to manage symptoms.
According to the Arthritis Foundation,10 arthritis is not a single disease, but rather a general term characterizing joint pain or joint disease. In fact, there are over 100 different types of arthritis that can affect anyone of any age or gender though it's most common in women and occurs most frequently in older adults.
Arthritis symptoms can vary widely across different types of the disease. They can come and go and fluctuate from mild to severe. In general, however, arthritis is characterized by:
- Stiffness, especially in the morning or after inactivity
- Decreased range of motion
When to See a Doctor
If you've been experiencing joint pain and stiffness on an on-going basis without having any other trauma or injury, you may want to see your doctor to see if you could have arthritis.
Only a doctor can diagnose you with arthritis and determine what type it is. Treatment will vary depending on the type of arthritis and the patient.
According to WebMD,11 fibromyalgia is a syndrome affecting the muscles and soft tissues. Though anyone can suffer from fibromyalgia, the disorder tends to affect women the most.
- Deep muscle pain
- Morning stiffness
- Tender points
- Sleep problems
- Anxiety or depression
- Concentration and memory problems
- Numbness and tingling in hands or feet
When to See a Doctor
Widespread pain is the symptom that most commonly drives people to see their doctor. If you've been having pain throughout your body for over two months, you should see a physician.
According to WebMD,12 diagnosing fibromyalgia can be difficult because its symptoms mimic the symptoms of many other kinds of illnesses. Your doctor will conduct physical tests as well as ask you about the symptoms you're feeling in order to diagnose you with fibromyalgia. It is likely they will also perform some blood tests.
Treatment for fibromyalgia is usually a multi-faceted approach that includes lifestyle changes as well as medication. Your doctor will discuss a treatment plan with you if you are diagnosed.
According to WebMD,13 lupus is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body's natural defense system mistakenly starts attacking itself. This can cause a variety of symptoms, including inflammation, swelling, joint pain, fever, and the characteristic lupus rash.
Every case of lupus is different, which makes it hard to diagnose. Its symptoms also mimic many other conditions, another factor that can make it hard to identify. That said, here are some of the most common symptoms of lupus:
- Extreme fatigue
- Joint pain and aching muscles
- A "butterfly" rash on the face (rash that spreads from the nose out to the cheeks like butterfly wings)
- Sun sensitivity
- Weight loss
- Chest pain when inhaling deeply
- Mouth, nose, or throat sores
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Poor circulation in fingers and toes
- Bald patches or hair loss
When to See a Doctor
According to the Mayo Clinic,14 you should see a doctor if you have an on-going fever, persistent aching or fatigue, or get an unexplained rash.
It is difficult to diagnose lupus and there is no one test that will determine whether or not you have it. Your doctor will use a combination of tests and exams to try to rule out other possibilities before finding out if you have lupus.
According to the Mayo Clinic, since no two cases of lupus are alike, no two programs of treatment are identical either. You and your doctor will determine a treatment program that may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antimalarial medication, corticosteroids, or immunosuppressants as well as lifestyle changes and therapies.
Other Conditions Associated With Body Aches
Many conditions can be associated with body aches or pains. Some of these include:
- Exercise or physical activity
- A reaction or side effect of medication
- Lyme disease
- Viral gastroenteritis
If your symptoms do not go away after five to seven days or appear to be getting worse, or if you're a part of a high-risk group, you should see a doctor to be diagnosed.
- Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD. "Common Cold Symptoms: What's Normal, What's Not." November 22, 2015. WebMD. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- Ellis, Mary Ellen. Reviewed by Graham Rogers, MD. "Can You Have the Flu Without a Fever." October 7, 2016. Healthline. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
- Goodman, Heidi. "How Long Does the Flu Last?" December 2016. Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- "The Flu: What to Do If You Get Sick?" February 14, 2017. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian. "Do I Have Pneumonia?" November 28, 2016. WebMD. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- "Diagnosing and Treating Pneumonia." October 6, 2016. American Lung Association. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- "Mononucleosis (Mono) - Topic Overview." (n.d.) WebMD. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- "Mononucleosis: Symptoms and Causes." December 11, 2015. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- "Strep Throat: Symptoms and Causes." December 16, 2015. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- "What Is Arthritis." (n.d.) Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS. "Fibromyalgia Symptoms." July 30, 2016. WebMD. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD. "Fibromyalgia Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis." January 2, 2017. WebMD. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- Reviewed by William Blahd, MD. "What Are the Symptoms of Lupus?" August 8, 2016. WebMD. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- "Lupus Symptoms." November 18, 2014. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 24, 2017.