Articles, Blog

How to Talk About Illness and Medicine in English

December 18, 2019

Hi, I’m Oli. Welcome to Oxford Online English! In this lesson, you can learn how to talk
about illness, medicine and healthcare in English. You’ll learn how to deal with a visit to
the doctor’s office, how to talk about different healthcare systems, how to talk about going
to hospital, and more. First, don’t forget to check out our website:
Oxford Online English dot com. You can study English with our free lessons,
including videos, listening lessons, and quizzes. If you’re looking for online English classes,
you can choose from one of our many professional teachers. Take a look: Oxford Online English dot com. Let’s start by looking at language you can
use if you need to see a doctor. So, what can I do for you today? Well, I’ve been having these headaches,
just behind my eyes. How long have you been having them? For about a week now. They aren’t constant—they come and go,
but they’re really painful. Do you have a fever? No, I don’t think so. Any respiratory symptoms? How do you mean? For example, do you have a blocked nose, a
sore throat, a cough, or anything like that? No, nothing like that. Is this the first time you’ve had a problem
like this? As far as I can remember, yeah. OK, please sit on the bed over here. I need to check your pulse and blood pressure. I’ll also need to check your lymph nodes
to see if they’re swollen. In the dialogue, the doctor asked many questions. Can you remember any? Typically, the doctor will ask about your
symptoms, your medical history, and about medication which you’re taking. To ask about your symptoms, the doctor might
ask ‘Do you have a fever?’ ‘Do you have a cough?’ ‘Do you have a sore throat?’ The doctor might ask more questions about
a specific symptom. For example: ‘How long have you been feeling
like this?’ ‘Is this the first time you’ve had a problem
like this?’ ‘How severe is the pain?’ If you’re describing your symptoms, it’s
common to use the present perfect tense, especially for a problem that appears repeatedly. For example: ‘I’ve been having really
bad headaches.’ ‘I’ve been having some stomach problems.’ ‘I’ve been having a lot of problems getting
to sleep.’ You could also add a time period, as in: ‘I’ve
had this cough for a week now.’ To describe more stable symptoms, use the
present simple tense. For example: ‘I have a swelling in my right
knee.’ ‘I have this rash on my arm.’ After you describe your symptoms, the doctor
might do some basic checks on you. For example, he or she might want to take your pulse
check your blood pressure or listen to your heartbeat or breathing using
a stethoscope. Next, the doctor will suggest further treatment,
and possibly prescribe medicine for you to take. Are you taking any medication currently? No, nothing. Any allergies? No. I’m going to prescribe you some painkillers. Take one as soon as you feel your headaches
starting. If you’re still in pain after an hour, take
a second one. Don’t take more than two pills in four hours,
or more than six pills in a 24-hour period. OK… Also, don’t drink alcohol or take any other
anti-inflammatories while you’re taking these. Can’t you do some more tests? What if it’s something more serious? If you’re still having the same problem
in two weeks, then we’ll need to investigate further. These things often clear up by themselves. You should also make sure you get enough sleep,
stay hydrated, and avoid stress if possible. Do I have to pay for the prescription? You pay a seven-pound prescription fee. I’m giving you enough pills to last four
weeks, so you should have enough. Can I take it to any chemist’s? Yes, of course. There’s a pharmacy in the supermarket around
the corner. You could get your medicine there. OK, I’ll do that. Thank you. Doctors can prescribe you medicine or other
treatments. They do this by writing what you need on a
piece of paper—a prescription. ‘Prescribe’ is the verb, and ‘prescription’
is the noun. You can also use the noun ‘prescription’
to refer to the medicine which a doctor prescribes for you. For example, you could say: ‘The doctor
prescribed antihistamines, but they didn’t help.’ ‘I lost my prescription, so I’ll have
to call the doctor and see if she can send me a replacement.’ Antihistamines are often taken by people who
have allergies. In the dialogue, do you remember what kind
of medicine the doctor prescribed? She prescribed painkillers. Common painkillers are paracetamol and ibuprofen. Painkillers may also be anti-inflammatories—they
reduce fever and swelling. After you have your prescription, you can
collect your medicine from a pharmacy—also called a chemist’s in UK English, although
both words are used. The doctor or pharmacist might also give you
advice on how to take your medicine. For example: ‘Take one pill every twelve
hours.’ ‘Make sure you take the pills with food.’ ‘Avoid alcohol while you’re taking these,
or they might not be as effective.’ Finally, the doctor might also give you some
more general advice. In the dialogue, the doctor mentioned three
things. Do you remember them? I said ‘You should also make sure
you get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and avoid stress if possible.’ Last question for this section: what happens
if you don’t stay hydrated? If you don’t stay hydrated by drinking enough
fluids, you’ll get dehydrated. Next, let’s look at language to use if you
aren’t sure where to go or how to get medical help. So, weird question, but what do I do if I
need to see a doctor? I’ve never been to hospital or anything
here, and I have no idea how it works. You have insurance? No. No? Anyway, what’s wrong with you? Nothing much. I have this swelling in my wrist, and it’s
a little uncomfortable to move it. I’d just like to get it checked out. Well, you could go to a public hospital. I think as a resident you’re entitled to
free public healthcare, but even if you have to pay, it won’t be much. You might have to wait for a long time, though. You mean, you have to wait to see a doctor? Yes, that too, but I meant that after you
see a doctor, it might be a long time before you get any treatment. From what I hear, the public health system
is really overstretched at the moment, and people have to wait weeks or months for treatment. So, you have private health insurance? Yeah, most people do. You could also go to a private clinic, or
just go to a GP and let him or her refer you to the right specialist if you need further
treatment. Would that be very expensive? A GP appointment normally costs about 40 or
50 Euros. For further treatment, it depends what you
need, obviously. Of course, if you’re uninsured, it’ll
be more expensive, but it’s not likely to be ridiculous. Maybe I’ll do that, then. I’d prefer to get it looked at sooner. Can you recommend anyone? I can give you the details for my GP. There’s also a website I can show you where
you can find a doctor closer to where you live, if you like. That sounds great. Thanks. In your country, if you need to see a doctor,
what do you do first? Can you go directly to a hospital, or do you
need to go to a GP or smaller clinic first? Let’s take the UK as an example. Most people in the UK use public healthcare,
which is almost completely free. Some people choose to buy private insurance,
which can give you more choice about where and when you get treatment. If you’re using public healthcare, you’ll
generally register with a GP. ‘GP’ stands for ‘general practitioner’,
meaning a doctor who doesn’t specialise in one area. GPs mostly work in small clinics, not in hospitals. If you have a problem, you’ll go to your
GP first. Your GP will then help you to arrange further
treatment if you need it. For example, your GP might refer you to a
specialist if you need more targeted treatment. In other countries, most people have healthcare
insurance. In some places, healthcare can be very expensive
if you’re uninsured. What about in your country? Look at three questions: One: do most people use public healthcare,
or is it more usual to buy private health insurance? Two: is public healthcare high-quality and
reliable? Why or why not? Three: are all residents entitled to free
public healthcare, or are there restrictions? Could you answer these questions? Try it! Say an answer out loud, or write it down. Or, do both! Remember that you might need to repeat and
practise your answer several times, so that it is fluent and clear. Did you do it? If so, feel free to share your answers with
other learners in the comments. Let’s move on. What happens if you have a more serious health
issue, and you need to stay in hospital? Have you heard about what happened to Louis? No, what? He went to the doctor’s for a routine check-up,
and they discovered he had a major cardiac problem. They sent him to A&E right away; they wouldn’t
let him go home even for an hour. Then, he had surgery the same day. No way! I saw him on Tuesday. He looked absolutely fine. Yeah, I was shocked, too. Anyway, we should go and see him, don’t
you think? He would probably appreciate some company. Sure… How long are they keeping him in? From what I heard, they want to monitor him
for a few days, and then he can go home. So, when can we go? Do they have set visiting hours? Yeah, it’s in the afternoon some time. I can check on their website. Let me check with his wife, too, because I’m
sure she’ll be spending time there, and I think there’s a two-visitor maximum. I hope he’s alright. I’ve never had an operation or had to stay
overnight in hospital, but I imagine it’s fairly miserable. Yup, you’re not wrong. Hopefully he’ll be discharged soon. We should take him some fruit or something
nice to eat. Can we do that? I think so, but I’ll check to be sure. Look at a sentence from the dialogue: ‘They
sent him to A&E right away.’ Do you know what ‘A&E’ means? A&E stands for ‘accident and emergency’. It’s the hospital department where you go
if you have a serious medical issue. In American English it’s commonly called
‘ER’—‘emergency room’. Let’s look at four more sentences from the
dialogue. In each sentence, there’s a word missing. Can you remember the missing words? If not, you can also go back and review the
dialogue to find them, if you want! Did you find the missing words? Let’s look. ‘How long are they keeping him in?’ means ‘How long will he have to stay in
hospital?’ ‘They’ here refers to the hospital staff. Hospitals have visiting hours, when you can
go and spend time with your friends and relatives who are staying there. Even if you need to go to hospital, you might
be an outpatient, meaning that you go to hospital, do what you need, and then go home again. The opposite is ‘inpatient’, meaning that
you need to stay overnight. When you’re ready to leave hospital and
go home, they discharge you. You can discharge yourself earlier, but your
doctors might try to persuade you to stay longer. Now, let’s look at our final section: recovering
from a health problem. So, how are you feeling? Quite fragile, to be honest. I mean, I feel better than I did, but it’s
a long process. Well, that’s to be expected. You had a major operation. How long do they say it’ll take to recover? They don’t give exact answers to things
like that. I guess every case is different, but they
said I should be back to normal in around three months. Three months?! Obviously I won’t be like this for three
months, or at least I hope not. I get tired so easily right now. They told me I should get some strength back
in a couple of weeks. Do you have to go back in for any more tests? I have to go tomorrow to get the incision
cleaned and dressed. It’s a big wound, so that’ll take a while
to heal just by itself. Apart from that, I think I have to go back
in a month or so for an ECG. Maybe there’s more, but I’m not focusing
on that right now. One day at a time! Do you need any help with anything? Please ask if you do. I’d love to help if I can. That’s kind of you! If you want, you could take me for a walk. I’m not supposed to go outside by myself,
but it’s nice to get some fresh air. I start going crazy if I’m just stuck in
bed or at home all day. Sure, how about tomorrow? That would be great! Come by any time. Let’s look at some language you heard in
the dialogue. Do you remember how this language was used? Could you explain what these sentences mean? Remember, you can pause the video to think,
or go back and review the dialogue if you need to. ‘Fragile’ is similar to weak. It’s often used to describe things which
break easily, like china plates or things made of glass. If you’re feeling fragile, you feel weak
and ill. If you’re recovering from a serious illness
or an operation, you’ll need to get your strength back. You also heard the phrase ‘get back to normal’. For example: ‘It’ll take a few weeks to
get back to normal.’ A wound is an opening or a cut in your skin. If you have an operation, the surgeon will
need to make an opening in your skin, which needs to heal afterwards. Finally, ‘one day at a time’ is a phrase
which means you focus on the present, rather than thinking about the future. You can use it when you’re dealing with
a difficult or complex situation. You can also use the longer phrase ‘take
things one day at a time.’ For example: ‘Everything’s so busy right
now. I can’t make plans for next year. I’m just taking things one day at a time.’ Of course, we hope you don’t need the language
you’ve seen in this lesson. But, we still hope it was useful for you. Thanks for watching! See you next time!


  • Reply David Abilash November 28, 2019 at 6:56 am

    2 nd like

  • Reply suffyan ali November 28, 2019 at 6:57 am

    I am the first person who watched this video

  • Reply شيج پردل November 28, 2019 at 6:58 am

    Very nays ??

  • Reply Sudarshan Kumar November 28, 2019 at 7:02 am

    Nice and useful video thanks a lot for this information! I'm from India.

  • Reply maqsood alam November 28, 2019 at 7:11 am

    Only one of best English teacher and you're so amazing online you tube teaching channel, I really appreciate for online teaching and I am so excited to be here for next video,

  • Reply Daro Dewkeea November 28, 2019 at 7:35 am

    Hello welcome my intarrest are you video lesson thak you

  • Reply Abdu Abra November 28, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Hi. my teacher!!!!! Thanks a lot please ???please make video every days ????✔✔✔✔✔

  • Reply target with study November 28, 2019 at 8:02 am

    Will anyone practice speaking English with me?

  • Reply Kim Nhung Hà Thị November 28, 2019 at 8:04 am


  • Reply Alexandr Padalka November 28, 2019 at 8:06 am


  • Reply Kieran November 28, 2019 at 8:15 am

    To be serious, you should not only prescribe painkillers and might consider what causes severe headaches. Meningitis can be one possible diagnosis of it or having insufficient blood supplement.

  • Reply j m November 28, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Thank you so much. I had been waiting for this!

  • Reply Senda Tamie November 28, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Very useful video, I `m going to see a doctor, practice with my doctor. Thank you teacher.

  • Reply Ghada Zein El-Abedine November 28, 2019 at 8:40 am

    Many thanks…how amazing the text and the performance..some suggested topics: advertising- computers/laptops- arts-literature-museum-history…something like that:)

  • Reply rajesh sharma November 28, 2019 at 8:41 am

    It's very useful to me…tysm..

  • Reply oni Gonzalez November 28, 2019 at 9:43 am


  • Reply Ali , Iraqi November 28, 2019 at 9:46 am

    It's very interesting video and very useful like always, think you so much for your efforts teachers

  • Reply yasser daoud November 28, 2019 at 10:39 am

    in my country Egypt , the health care is really bad and the public health care is kinda torture .. it's a deeply low quality , you can say there's no public health care in Egypt , if we make a comparison between Egypt and UK you can say we're living under the ground in can't imagine how many patients get to the doctor's office per one hour ( only one hour ) !! about 70 patients !! do you imagine that ? a 70 patients in only 60 minutes , do you what that means ? it means that the patient has only one minute to be checked and take the prescription , how come

  • Reply Mery G November 28, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Hy Oli and Step

  • Reply Kim Dohun Addict November 28, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    Stephanie and Oli are a perfect combination.

  • Reply ود اسماعيل November 28, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you a lot of

  • Reply orn_eng eng November 28, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    Very great lesson. Thank you so much!

  • Reply tonia hikaru November 28, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    In my country, Italy, and in particular in my region, public healthcare is like a dream. People can't afford private practice, so they are compelled to wait months or years before they can have an appointment. For example, I have a chronic thyroid condition, but my sooner appointment with a doctor is next June. But the symptoms are now.

  • Reply Amit Gupta November 28, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    Hello Sir/Ma'mm, Greetings of the day ! Amit Gupta here from India, Your regular student.

    I am looking knowledge on Determiner (Article, PA,DP, Cardinal and ordinal numbers, multipliers,fractions,intensifiers,other words,and Numerals adjectives .. may be called Pre,Central and Post determiner ,and what is their order in the sentence. 2. Why we use "The , PA, DP " determiner after All,and "Whole "after "The,PA,DA" . (All My,Our,These The & The,My,Our,These Whole) Please help me to understand the same. Regards,

  • Reply HOMELAND LOVERS{AZERBAIJAN} November 28, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Good evening, my dear teacher! "Oxford Online English" family is great! Thanks for beautiful videos sharing! well you have! I wanna be polyglot like Tim Doner. How can I do? I make up sentences while I myself am going to course on the way .Is it able to help to me?

  • Reply Riaz Rahat November 28, 2019 at 4:18 pm


  • Reply Helmi nasser November 28, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    I really like learning from your channel but your back ground is too shinny

  • Reply Izak Ski November 28, 2019 at 4:37 pm


  • Reply Vy Ngo November 28, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    Actually, I am a person with a weakend immune system. I still remember a couple of months ago, I had to have time off work because I was diagnosed with acute sinusitis. In fact, I suffered from a lot of common symptoms such as nasal congestion, high fever, bad headaches and fatigue. I decided to go to a local hospital, and my doctor prescribed me some antibiotics, pain relievers and saline nasal sprays for my illness. He also gave me some pieces of advice that could help me decrease the risk of developing sinusitis. Fortunately, I made a speedy recovery and went back to work after two weeks. It was nothing serious and did not really cause me any problems.

    I live in Vietnam, and most Vietnamese citizens are entitled to free public healthcare. However, some Vietnamese public hospitals have to face overcrowding and occupancy rates because there is an increasing number of patients every year. Besides, the quality of medical equipment as well as medical staff in provincial hospitals is still lower than in national ones. This means that the small provincial hospitals need to make a lof efforts to improve their medical services to reduce the flow of patients into large public hospitals. Moreover, one of the greatest challenges for public hospitals is the lack of modern equipment which is used to treat with serious diseases. Apart from that, there are also some Vietnamese people who choose to go private because they have resources. They usually have to pay prescription charges which can be quite expensive for their long-term treatment.

  • Reply UMIDJON November 28, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    Please I'm suffering from reading? please? I need advise my teachers.

  • Reply Nilan November 28, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    Prescription fee is £9 pounds now 🙂

  • Reply Thomas Sibi November 28, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    These are useful things

  • Reply Mr king November 28, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Very important topic is Relative pronuon must cover it

  • Reply Misgina Beraki November 28, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    Thankes more

  • Reply Selvin Lux November 28, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    thank you!!!! you are amazing!!!

  • Reply Andy - The ESL Guy November 29, 2019 at 12:47 am

    I'll use this in my class tomorrow, thanks so much! 🙂

  • Reply Dinuka Sanjaya November 29, 2019 at 4:13 am

    Very useful… Thanks a lot…

  • Reply nirodhi ගේ හුත්ත පැලීම November 29, 2019 at 5:46 am

    Please help me i have problem with speaking.when i trying to speak in english my words disappeared and i cant match sentences properly.

  • Reply sergi yankin November 29, 2019 at 8:29 am


  • Reply Hazem Mohamed November 29, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    Firstly, i would say thank you so much MR Oli❤️

  • Reply Chanabasayya Sindagimath November 30, 2019 at 4:47 am


  • Reply Babbu Sandhu November 30, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    Hllo sir could u plz tell me , what should i use for doll , she or it .

  • Reply Babbu Sandhu November 30, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    Hllo sir could u plz tell me , what should i use for doll , she or it . I want to prepare cue card on it

  • Reply Emnesi Othman December 1, 2019 at 8:21 am

    Actually in my country healt care services are unreliable with a very low quality level even for private health insurance agencies. So, most people prefer puplic ospital rather than private.

  • Reply Moises December 1, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    Am I the only one who have a crush on him?

  • Reply Sabohat Ibragimovna December 2, 2019 at 3:58 am

    ???thank you teachers

  • Reply Huyền thoại bóng đá December 2, 2019 at 7:49 am

    OOE’s video is very normal.It’s do not any song to make it great.

  • Reply ALI_ ARAMAN December 2, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Oli sir your voice is magical & attractive. Love you OLI…

  • Reply Mahmud Esgerli December 2, 2019 at 11:48 am

  • Reply Biplob Dutta December 2, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Fabulous way of teaching. thanks mr oli and other. More helpful and easier than other channel. GOD bless both of you. keep this attempt on so that we can learn more and more

  • Reply Ali Tahmasbi December 4, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks for all videos, I'm taking the IELTS test in two weeks and I have been watching your videos now for a while. It's been very helpful. Love you all, specially Oli.

  • Reply Earl Graves December 4, 2019 at 11:31 pm

    nao gostei

  • Reply Najib Mohammadi December 5, 2019 at 1:36 am

    Love your video it’s very helpful
    Thank you

  • Reply Wahida Rahaman December 5, 2019 at 4:51 am

    Lot of thanks sir

  • Reply Bakhtawar Asim December 5, 2019 at 5:47 am

    Teachers are teaching with love n kindness. Thanks

  • Reply Jenny Zhang December 5, 2019 at 6:27 am

    Thanks, Oli and Stephanie. This video really helps me a lot! sometimes it's really hard to describe some symptoms or talk about the illness. looking forward to more videos!

  • Reply chilameelika sree December 5, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Any oet students here

  • Reply Do Duy December 6, 2019 at 3:30 am

    thank you so much Oli and Stephanie. the voice is easy to hear and clear

  • Reply Quỳnh Hương Nguyễn Hữu December 6, 2019 at 3:59 am

    Thank you for the very good lesson. Could you please correct my speaking below:
    1. Do most people use public healthcare or is it more usual to buy private health insurance?

    In my country, most people don’t use public healthcare. It is not more usual to buy private health insurance. People will go to any private doctor or clinic to check if they feel ill or not well. If something serious happen, they will go directly to the hospital

    2. Is public healthcare high-quality and reliable? Why and why not?

    No, it is not. The public healthcare’s quality is very poor. People don’t have enough bed to stay. Further more, the quality of medicines is not good and reliable. And the health care workers are not professional and qualified.

    3. Are all residents entitled to free public healthcare, or are there restrictions?

    No, they are not. It is our wishes. Only the people who have the job and their companies are forced to buy insurance for their workers. Or some people who work for the government are having insurance. And some other people can buy insurance themselves. The rest of people don’t have any insurance.

  • Reply Shaimaa Kamal December 6, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Thank u very much Oli .
    I love the way u teach us .?
    I'm thinking of translating your videos into my language "Arabic", to let everyone learn from u , if you don't mind .

  • Reply MCHEM INDIA December 7, 2019 at 5:35 am

    Kindly make videos for GRE PREPARATION

  • Reply OnurSevenDoğan December 8, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Why he says 'can I take it to any chemist' instead 'Can I take it from any chemist' Why is 'to' being used ınstead 'from' in this example

  • Reply พันธุ์ศักดิ์ ศิริเลิศ December 8, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    Thank you.

  • Reply Chantana L December 9, 2019 at 11:27 am

    If teacher speak slow dawn more than this is ok i can know more…. respectful…

  • Reply Arman Ahmad December 9, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Hello I am from India i like your videos its very helpful for me can you please upload video how to answer interview questions and what types of questions asked in the most interviews. Thank You

  • Reply cacilda couto December 9, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Hi, thank so much for the video. Sometimes, the doctor ask about score pain, like this : ( I think …) If you were to give a pain score from 1 to 10, 1 being a nuisance and 10 unbearble pain, what grade would you give

  • Reply Sohir Mousa December 9, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    I hope that there are some exercises at the end of each lessonn

  • Reply Filsan Abdi December 10, 2019 at 6:23 am

    Thank you so much l like thath?

  • Reply Lotus Pink December 13, 2019 at 3:12 am

    Can you please subtitle in English? I can follow it better!

  • Reply kareem abdul December 13, 2019 at 1:52 pm


  • Reply Mumin Jodax December 13, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    Thank you so much mr oli

  • Reply منير الحميري December 14, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    I would like to ask ..why do u use the plural of headache

  • Reply Vikki Kumar Gupta December 15, 2019 at 5:46 am

    Feeling confident being with you oli sir.

  • Reply Sohir Mousa December 15, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    I'm sorry I'm late for solving the lesson'exercises . I did the lesson's exercises .they were really useful and fun .thank you very much

  • Reply GURPREET SINGH December 16, 2019 at 11:58 am

    Video make with English subtitles, please

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