Explaining Medical Symptoms in Spanish

2 of 6 in Series: The Essentials of Dealing with Emergencies in Spanish-Speaking Countries

Accidents and ailments happen everywhere, even on a vacation to a Spanish-speaking country. If you can't explain your medical symptoms to a Spanish doctor, your minor ailment can become a major emergency. Keep this list of everyday health words in mind so you can hold your own in a conversation about your health:

  • la salud (sah-lood) (the health)

  • sano (sah-noh) (healthy)

  • enfermo (ehn-fehr-moh) (sick)

  • derecho (deh-reh-choh) (right)

  • izquierdo (ees-keeehr-doh) (left)

  • la cirugía (lah see-roo-Heeah) (the surgery)

  • la herida (lah eh-ree-dah) (the wound)

  • la orina (lah oh-ree-nah) (the urine)

  • la sangre (lah sahn-greh) (the blood)

  • la presión sanguínea (lah preh-seeohn sahn-ghee-neh-ah) (the blood pressure)

  • el estornudo (ehl ehs-tohr-noo-doh) (the sneeze)

  • la náusea (lah nahoo-seh-ah) (the nausea; sickness)

  • el estreñimiento (ehl ehs-treh-nyee-meeehn-toh) (the constipation)

  • la evacuación (lah eh-bvah-kooah-seeohn) (the bowel movement [Literally: evacuation])

  • la receta (lah reh-seh-tah) (the prescription)

  • la medicina (lah meh-dee-see-nah) (the medication; the medicine)

  • la farmacia (lah fahr-mah-seeah) (the pharmacy)

  • el jarabe (ehl Hah-rah-bveh) (the syrup; the elixir)

The following phrases can be useful for describing your medical symptoms:

  • Me duele la espalda. (meh dooeh-leh lah ehs-pahl-dah) (My back hurts.)

  • Me sangra la nariz. (meh sahn-grah lah nah-rees) (My nose is bleeding.)

  • No puedo ver. (noh pooeh-doh bvehr) (I can’t see.)

  • Me entró algo en el ojo. (meh ehn-troh ahl-goh ehn ehl oh-Hoh) (Something got into my eye.)

  • Me torcí el tobillo. (meh tohr-see ehl toh-bvee-yoh) (I twisted my ankle.)

  • He sentido náuseas. (eh sehn-tee-doh nahoo-seh-ahs) (I felt nauseated.)

If you want to describe your pain to a doctor who speaks English, and you’re introduced to one, try to make sure that the doctor’s English is better than your Spanish before you get involved with him or her. If you’re having trouble being understood in English or Spanish, ask for another doctor whose language skills more nearly match your own.

So say you have a doctor’s appointment in a Spanish-speaking country and want to describe your symptoms. Here’s how this type of conversation might go:

Julia:

Me duele la cabeza.
meh dooeh-leh lah kah-bveh-sah
My head hurts.

Dr. Díaz:

¿Desde cuándo?
dehs-deh kooahn-doh
Since when?

Julia:

Desde ayer. Me golpeé la cabeza.
dehs-deh ah-yehr meh gohl-peh-eh lah kah-bveh-sah
Since yesterday. I banged my head.

Dr. Díaz:

¿Cómo se golpeó?
koh-moh seh gohl-peh-oh
How did you bang [your head]?

Julia:

Me caí en la calle.
meh-kah-ee ehn lah kah-lyeh
I fell on the street.

Dr. Díaz:

Tiene mareos?
tee-eh-neh mah-reh-ohs
Do you get dizzy?

Julia:

Sí, tengo mareos.
see tehn-goh mah-reh-ohs
Yes, I get dizzy.

Dr. Díaz:

Vamos a tenerle en observación durante dos días.
vah-mohs ah teh-nehr-leh ehn ohbv-sehr-bvah-seeohn doo-rahn-teh dohs deeahs
We’ll keep you under observation for two days.
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The Essentials of Dealing with Emergencies in Spanish-Speaking Countries

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