English for Medical Purposes - Troubling Symptoms

Doctor and patient in office
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Going to a doctor who doesn't speak your native language may sometimes prove difficult. The following is a sample dialogue that you can use when visiting a doctor about some troubling symptoms.

When you are not feeling well, you might need to describe in further detail the complications you are experiencing and the format below might help you do just that. Practice alone or with a friend.

The patient in the dialogue below is feeling sick—they have a cough and diarrhea. However, even if you are experiencing other discomforts, you can use this dialogue as a blueprint for a medical conversation. You will find a list of different symptoms to choose from at the end.

Some Troubling Symptoms

Patient: Good afternoon.

Doctor: Good afternoon. Have a seat. So, what have you come in for today?
Patient: Thank you. I'm feeling ill. I've got quite a bad cough, but I don't seem to have a fever.

Doctor: I see. How long have you had these symptoms?
Patient: Oh, I've had the cough for two weeks, but I have been feeling ill just these past few days.

Doctor: Are you having any other problems?
Patient: Well, I've got a headache. I've also had some diarrhea.

Doctor: Do you produce any phlegm when coughing?
Patient: Sometimes, but my cough is usually pretty dry.

Doctor: Do you smoke?
Patient: Yes, a few cigarettes a day. Certainly no more than a half a pack a day.

Doctor: How about allergies? Do you have any allergies?
Patient: Not that I'm aware of.

Doctor: Does your head feel stuffy?
Patient: Yes, for the past few days.

Doctor: OK. Now let's have a look. Could you please open your mouth and say 'ah'?

Key Vocabulary

  • symptom = a physical or mental feature indicating a disease
  • to feel ill = to feel sick; to feel like vomiting
  • to cough = to expel air from the lungs with a sudden sharp sound
  • cough = an act of coughing; expression: to have a cough
  • fever = an abnormally high body temperature
  • headache = a continuous pain in the head
  • diarrhea = a condition in which feces are discharged from the bowels frequently and in a liquid form
  • phlegm = mucus; the thick substance secreted by membranes of the respiratory passages
  • allergy = hypersensitivity to a substance
  • stuffy = (of a nose) blocked up and making breathing difficult; expression: to feel stuffy

Other Troubling Symptoms

  • pain = suffering or discomfort
  • indigestion = pain or discomfort in the stomach
  • constipation = difficulty emptying the bowels
  • sore throat = pain in the throat
  • cut = an open wound
  • burn = an injury caused by heat or flame

More English for Medical Purposes Dialogues