English Speaking: Medical Problems

These words and phrases will help you talk about minor medical problems.

ache (pronounce the “a” to rhyme with “say”)
You can use ache as a noun with different parts of your body:

I’ve got …
a headache, toothache, stomach-ache, backache, earache

Also verb “to ache“:
“After swimming yesterday, my legs ache today.”

a pain
“I’ve got a pain in my side.”

adjective = painful
“My knee is painful today.”

Other common problems

a rash = red or irritated skin
“I’ve got a rash on my hand. I think it’s the new cream.”

a bite = when an insect or animal bites you
“He’s covered in mosquito bites.”
We frequently use the passive form: “He was bitten by mosquitoes.”

a sting = when an insect (or plant) stings you (puts poison on your skin)
“She’s allergic to bee stings.”
We also often use the passive form: “He got stung by a wasp.”

a cut = when you bleed
“He cut his hand when he was cooking.”

a sprain = when you hurt a bone but you don’t break it
“She sprained her ankle when she fell over.”

a broken … (bone)
a broken ankle, a broken leg, a broken wrist, a broken rib etc

For more vocabulary and phrases see our pages How to talk about illness and Medical English vocabulary.

Talking about illnesses

“I feel hot / cold / achy / tired.”

We also use have / have got to talk about symptoms and illnesses (mild and severe):

I’ve got a cold / a cough / a sore throat / the flu.
He’s got an infection.
I’ve got a temperature. (= a fever)
He’s got asthma, bronchitis, cancer (of the + body part), a tumour.

You can also “catch” an illness from another person.

I caught a cold from my sister.
He caught a virus / a bug.

Practise your listening!

Listen to these five medical conversations. You can also read the tapescript as you listen.

Conversation 1 – with a doctor

How can I help you?
I have a sharp pain in my side.
OK. Lets have a look.

Conversation 2 – with a doctor

Hello. How are you today?
I’ve got a rash on my arm.
Let’s take a look.

Conversation 3 – chatting with a friend

Hi Steven, How’s the knee?
Oh. it’s much better now, thanks.
Glad to hear it!

Conversation 4 – chatting with a friend

What happened to your arm?
I got stung by a wasp.
It looks painful.

Conversation 5 – chatting with a friend

How was the camping trip?
Great, but we were bitten by mosquitoes.