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Medical symptoms

Medical symptoms

Introduction to medical symptoms

Describing your symptoms clearly is very important when you need medical help. This can be quite difficult for people who are learning English as a second language (ESL) because they may not know a lot of medical words and phrases. If you don’t describe your symptoms clearly, you might not receive the help that you need. This article will help you understand some common symptoms and how to explain them in simple English.

Common medical symptoms

fever – when your body temperature is higher than normal

I have a fever.

I feel feverish.

cough – when you release air from your lungs with a sudden sharp sound

I have a cough.

headache – a feeling of pain in any part of the head

I have a headache.

nausea – feeling sick and wanting to vomit

I feel nauseous.

fatigue – being very tired, exhausted
I feel fatigued.

I’m always tired.

dizziness – feeling unsteady or losing your balance

I feel dizzy.

pain – unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury
I have a sharp pain in my chest.
I have stabbing pain in my stomach.
I have mild pain in my chest.

I have severe pain in my back.

shortness of breath – difficulty in breathing or feeling like you can’t get enough air
I’m experiencing shortness of breath.

I’m having trouble breathing.

chest pain – pain in any area of the chest
I have chest pain.

There’s a sharp pain in my chest.

abdominal pain – pain in the area between your chest and your pelvis
I have abdominal pain.

I have a stomachache.

diarrhea – loose or watery bowel movements

I have diarrhea.

constipation – difficulty in emptying the bowels, usually because of a hardened stool

I’m constipated.

sore throat – pain or irritation in the throat

I have a sore throat.

runny nose – a condition where the nose discharges a fluid

I have a runny nose.

loss of appetite – not wanting to eat

I’ve lost my appetite.

weight loss – a reduction in body weight

I’ve been losing weight unexpectedly.

rash – changes in skin color or texture

I have a rash.

Medical symptoms

The duration and frequency of symptoms

When discussing medical symptoms, it’s also important to mention how long you’ve been experiencing them and how often they occur. Here are some phrases that can help:

I’ve been feeling this way for…
This has been going on for…
I’ve been experiencing this since…

It happens every time when…


Learning to discuss medical symptoms in English can seem difficult at first, but with practice and a little patience, it becomes easier. Memorize the basic symptoms to be able to communicate with your doctor abroad!

If you’re experiencing constant symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor. Check out our article on Making a medical appointment in English to learn how to schedule a visit easily and effectively.

Your online Medical English course on the ELLA elearning platform.

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