Beginners series 1

Beginners 18: At the doctors

Learn the vocabulary and phrases you’ll need should you ever have to pay a visit to the doctor or pharmacy. You’ll learn how to:
  • Ask for a doctor’s appointment
  • Describe different types of pain, and how you feel
  • Understand common medical procedures
Lis Salinas

Lis Salinas







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Bienvenidos a Spanish Obsessed, episode 18 from our Beginners series. Buenas, Lis, ¿cómo estás?
Hola Rob, muy bien, muy bien, gracias.
So, in today’s topic, we’re going to talk about something which, hopefully, you won’t need actually to use, but, you may do. And it’s better to, to know it and not need it, than to need it and not know it.
So, we’re talking about going to the doctor or the medic or the pharmacy, I guess, and if you spend any time in Latin American countries, than this may be something which you need to do. If the food disagrees with you, for example, which is something that happened to me recently in Mexico, but I won’t go into details in that.
Actually, a very important topic, I think.
It’s a very important topic, yeah. So, it’s never too early to learn this. So, we’ll kind of go through it in order, we’ll do a mix of English and Spanish, as usual, but we’ll go through it in order in terms of actually looking for a health centre or a hospital or a doctor, then how do you actually book an appointment, and then, once you’re with the doctor, or the pharmacist, or the nurse, or whomever, then what’s the kind of, the typical things they’d ask you, and what’s the typical things you’d say. Now, it’s worth pointing out that we’re not doctors, this is not professional medical advice, but it’s more – if, so if you’re a doctor, you’ll probably need some more details, we’ve actually, I found a really good website and I’ll put a link to that, of some medical Spanish, there’s lots of materials available, so this is more for, you know, if you need to go to the doctor, if you need to go to a pharmacy.
For patients.
For patients, exactly. So, also, do be sure to go back to episode four, because we actually talk about being ill in that one, do you remember that?
Mmmm… kind of.
A while ago, now. So we said things like…
Tengo fiebre, tengo dolor de cabeza…
Tengo fiebre – “I have a fever”, tengo dolor de cabeza – “I have a headache”, or how do you say, “It hurts”?
Me duele.
So, the simplest thing to do is actually point to a part of your body and say – me duele aquí – “Here. It hurts here”. If you need to be a little bit more specific, we’ll talk about some different types of pain a little bit later. So, you might also say “I feel a certain way”, again, all of this we did cover in that previous podcast, so you could say…
Me siento…
“I feel…”
Mareo – “dizzy”
“Fatal” or – also “terrible”, basically.
“Better”. Okay, so, say what hurts with me duele and then say “I feel” – me siento plus the adjective, and that’s to say how you feel. So, all of that is useful to a certain extent, but sometimes you need to be a little bit more specific in talking about the actual type of pain itself, this is not something I ever thought I’d be doing in a podcast, but it’s interesting. In English, we’ve actually got lots of different types of pain, so, you can have aches, you can have stings, – a stinging pain, an aching pain, you could have an itch, all of these kinds of things. Now, in Spanish you don’t really have that so much, do you?
No, not really, I rem…actually for me the last time I went to the doctor it was very difficult to me…to explain to the doctor. Yeah, we have few, few words to describe um… pain, so, shall we try?
So, generally you’d say: Tengo un dolor – “I have a pain”, and then you’d use, even adjective, or, you could say – a comparison, so: Tengo un dolor ardiente – “I have a burning pain”, that’s an adjective, or for example: Tengo un dolor como un nudo – “…like a knot”, it’s like a, kind of, maybe a muscular pain, or a knot in the back. So give us some more examples, Lis.
Tengo un dolor como agujas.
Como agujas. So, agujas are “needles”, so imagine a, like “a needling pain”.
M-hm. O picadas también.
M-hm. Tengo un dolor como una puñalada.
So una puñalada is “a stab”, so this would be “a stabbing pain”.
Tengo un dolor como un pellizco.
Un pellizco is “a pinch”, so like “a pinching pain”.
Tengo un dolor constante.
So, this is an adjective, constante – “I have a constant pain” or “ongoing pain”.
Tengo un dolor que quema.
Que quema, so quemar is “to burn”, “I have a burning pain”.
O tengo un dolor leve.
Tengo un dolor leve. So, I guess this is the, the best one. “I have a light pain”. Leve is “light”. Could you say un dolor ligero?
Sí, también.
Okay, also. Okay, and then this for me is quite an interesting one, being a language geek, in English we say, “I have pins and needles”, which is kind of a little expression when you feel the sensation of pins and needles, so like a prickling pain in your skin. In Spanish, what is the equivalent?
Hormigueo. So, hormigueo is actually related to the word…
Hormiga which means “ant”, so hormigueo, if you imagine ants crawling over your skin – that’s the sensation, so it’s similar to pins and needles, so imagine a tingling sensation…
Like hundreds and hundreds of…
Hundreds of ants, ugh. So how would you say that – tengo hormigueo
Sí, tengo hormigueo en…la cara.
Tengo hormigueo en la cara – “I have pins and needles on my face”. Nice. You had another type of pain. I can’t believe I’m saying that.
Me pica.
Me pica. So, that means – “It’s itchy”.
Si algo me pica – it’s like “an itching pain”.
M-hm. Por ejemplo una alergia. Tengo una alergia y me pica la piel.
M-hm. So “I have an allergy” – tengo una alergia, y me pica la piel – “and my skin…” – la piel – “is itchy” – me pica. Okay, so let’s say you’ve found a health centre or a hospital, and you go in, now the first thing you normally have to do is actually ask for an appointment or ask to see someone straight away, depending on the emergency. So, how could you say, “I’d like to see a doctor”?
Quiero pedir una cita médica. Quiero pedir una cita médica.
Okay, so you’d say that to a receptionist: Quiero pedir – “I want to have, I want to ask for”, una cita médica – “I want to have a consultation with a doctor”. How…
Actually, I think you should say more like – necesito una cita médica.
Okay – necesito una cita médica. So, it’s…
Especially with Colombian health.
Yeah. So, you say – “I need, I need a doctor, a consultation”: Necesito una cita con el médico. So, let’s say you’re then in with, so you’re, you’re either talking to the pharmacist, or the medic, or the nurse, whoever it is, now they’ll often ask you about your pre-existing conditions. So, what are some common things you might say here?
Soy alérgica o alérgico.
Yeah, I would say: Soy alérgico a… – “I’m allergic to…“ – and then whatever it is.
Soy diabético. Diabética.
Soy diabético, in my case. Diabética – “I’m diabetic.”
No tengo alergias a nada.
So, “I have no allergies to anything.”
Estoy tomando…bla, bla…
Estoy tomando – “I’m taking…”. Okay, and then, obviously depending on the situation again, there are some common medical procedures which they might do, and they would do these under all sorts of different circumstances. So, what is a blood test?
Una prueba de sangre.
So sangre is “blood”- una prueba de sangre is “a blood test”. So, what might the doctor or nurse say?
Te vamos a hacer una prueba de sangre.
Okay, so “We’re going to do a blood test”. Now, they might also take your blood pressure. What’s “blood pressure” in Spanish?
La presión sanguínea. La presión sanguínea.
La presión sanguínea. So, sangresanguínea, those are related words, all around blood, so we’ve had pain and now we have blood, this is a good podcast. So, a doctor might say: Te vamos a tomar la presión sanguínea – “we’re going to take your blood pressure”. Those are, those are two of the most common things they might do, and then hopefully, there’ll be a nice easy treatment, so one of the most common things in that case is they’ll prescribe you something. So, what’s the verb “to prescribe” in Spanish?
Prescribir. So, literally the same: pre-scri-bir. “Prescribe”. But there’s another one, isn’t there?
Recetar. Which is more common, you think?
Prescribir. So, they might say: Te voy a recetar or Te voy a prescribir… whatever. So that’s “a prescription”, and then something else which you’ll often hear is “You just need to rest”. So, there’s three ways of saying “to rest”. Three ways in which a doctor might describe it.
So, what are they?
Y relajarse.
Relajarse. Okay, so, you’ve found out some ways to talk about pain, some ways to talk about blood…
Yeah, but this is just in case…!
So, describe your symptoms in the case of needing to go a pharmacy, or doctor, or some other medical situation. Let’s hope you don’t need it. Muchísimas gracias, Lis.
Gracias a ti, Rob.



Necesito ver a un medicoI need to see a doctor 
Quiero pedir una cita medicaI want to book a doctor’s appointment 
Tengo fiebreI have a fever 
Tengo dolor de cabezaI have a headache 
Tengo un dolor…I have a pain… 
…como un nudo…like a knot 
…como agujas…like needles 
…como una puñaladaA stabbing pain 
… como un pellizcoA pinching pain 
…constanteA constant pain 
que quema…that burns 
leve/ligeroA light pain 
Me escueceIt stingsFrom verb escocer
Me picaIt itches 
Soy alergico/a a…I’m allergic to…Be sure to change ending based on gender
Soy diabetico/aI’m diabeticBe sure to change ending based on gender
Estoy tomando…I’m taking (medicine) 
Recetar/prescriberTo prescribe 
Reposar/descansar/relajarseTo relax, rest