Essential Chinese Medical Terms For Visiting The Doctor

  • Jasmine Chiam
    Written byJasmine Chiam
  • Read time13 mins
  • Comments0
Essential Chinese Medical Terms For Visiting The Doctor

Catching an illness is a stressful experience, and having to navigate communication barriers in a foreign country makes it worse.

If you’re planning to travel or stay in China, it’s always best to have a handful of medical terms prepped for a rainy day.

You’ll never know when you might catch a virus or have to rush to a pharmacy for diarrhea medications. In emergency cases, being able to speak Chinese speeds up the process and ensures timely treatment is given.

This comprehensive guide covers essential Chinese medical terms for visiting your doctor.

We’ll explore the different aspects of seeking medical help using Mandarin Chinese - from booking appointments and calling an ambulance to describing common symptoms and illnesses.

Let’s dive right in!

Asking for medical help or attention in Chinese

The following are some basic phrases that are important to learn.

Whether you’re in an emergency or want to convey the message that you need medical assistance - these phrases can help.

Phrase Chinese translation Pinyin
Ambulance 救护车 Jiùhù chē
Hospital 医院 Yīyuàn
Clinic 诊所 Zhěnsuǒ
Pharmacy 药房 Yàofáng
Doctor 医生 Yīshēng
Nurse 护士 Hùshì

Let’s look at examples using these terms in complete sentences.

We’ll start by learning how to ask for simple directions or guidance to get to a medical facility.

Listen to audio

请问医院在哪里?

Qǐngwèn yīyuàn zài nǎlǐ?
Where's the hospital?
Listen to audio

请问诊所在哪里?

Qǐngwèn zhěnsuǒ zài nǎlǐ?
Where's the clinic?
Listen to audio

请问药房在哪里?

Qǐngwèn yàofáng zài nǎlǐ?
Where's the pharmacy?

In the three examples above, you’ll only notice a slight difference between each one. Let’s break this down.

请问 (Qǐngwèn) translates to “May I please ask?”

This is a polite way to approach a stranger and ask a question or to ask for help. Meanwhile, the other repeating section, 在哪里 (zài nǎlǐ), translates to “where.”

The next step is to simply fill in the blanks with the place you need directions to: 请问 ___ 在哪里?

Another way you can ask someone to help you get medical attention is by using the following phrases.

Listen to audio

你能带我去医院吗?

Nǐ néng dài wǒ qù yīyuàn ma?
Can you take me to the hospital?
Listen to audio

你能带我去看医生吗?

Nǐ néng dài wǒ qù kàn yīshēng ma?
Can you take me to see a doctor?
Listen to audio

请叫救护车。

Qǐng jiào jiùhù chē.
Please help me call an ambulance.

How to say you’re sick in Chinese

Or you can also simply let the other person (be it a friend or stranger) know you’re sick.

我病了 (wǒ bìng le) is the most basic way to say “I’m sick” but if you’re talking to a friend or family member, the more casual and native-like way to say this is 我不舒服 (wǒ bù shū fu), which is more frequently used in spoken Chinese.

In response, they may say, 你应该去看医生 (nǐ yīnggāi qù kàn yīshēng), which means “You should go see a doctor.”

In that case, just use the phrase we learned above, 你能带我去看医生吗? (Nǐ néng dài wǒ qù kàn yīshēng ma?).

Making a doctor’s appointment

While some medical facilities accept walk-ins, some may require you to have an appointment booked beforehand.

If your case isn’t a medical emergency, you can also make an appointment to reduce waiting time at the doctor’s office.

Here are some phrases that might come in handy.

Listen to audio

我要预约看医生。

Wǒ yào yù yuē kàn yī shēng.
I would like to make an appointment to see the doctor.
Listen to audio

你能安排一个合适的时间吗?

Nǐ néng ānpái yīgè héshì de shíjiān ma?
Can you arrange a suitable time?
Listen to audio

我想要预约今天。

Wǒ xiǎng yào yùyuē jīntiān.
I would like to make an appointment for today.

The other party may ask about your name, handphone number, or date of birth. Listen out for these phrases:

  • 名字 (míngzì) - Name
  • 电话号码 (diànhuà hàomǎ) - Phone number
  • 出生日期 (chūshēng rìqí) - Date of birth

You can check out our guide on how to talk about days and dates in Mandarin Chinese.

Learning to read and tell the time in Mandarin Chinese will also be helpful when booking an appointment.

Describing your symptoms in Chinese

So, you’ve successfully made your way to the doctor. Here’s where things can get a little tricky.

You could use a mixture of gestures and words to get your message across. But learning to talk about your symptoms in Mandarin Chinese is the safest and most effective way to seek medical help.

Let’s explore how we can talk about body parts and describe common symptoms in Chinese.

Parts of the body in Mandarin Chinese

We’ll start off first by learning how to talk about various parts of the body.

Phrase Chinese translation Pinyin
Head Tóu
Eyes 眼睛 Yǎnjīng
Nose 鼻子 Bízi
Ears 耳朵 Ěrduǒ
Mouth 嘴巴 Zuǐbā
Hands Shǒu
Feet Jiǎo
Back Bèi
Stomach 胃 / 肚子 Wèi / Dùzi

Combining the above terms with various symptoms below may help explain the situation better to your healthcare provider.

Here are some phrases you can use to describe the pain or discomfort related to a certain body part.

Phrase Chinese translation Pinyin
Painful Tòng
Itchy Yǎng
Inflamed 发炎 Fāyán
Swollen Zhǒng
Bleeding 流血 Liúxuè
Rash 疹子 Zhěnzi

Here are examples of how to use the above table to describe the symptoms affecting a body part.

Listen to audio

我的肚子痛。

Wǒ de dùzi tòng.
I have a stomach ache.
Listen to audio

我的眼睛很痒。

Wǒ de yǎnjīng hěn yǎng.
My eyes are itchy.
Listen to audio

我流鼻血。

Wǒliú bíxiě.
I have a bleeding nose.

On a side note, you may hear people using 疼 (téng) in place of 痛 (tòng). Both these mean “painful” or “hurts” and can describe a specific body part in pain.

You can use them interchangeably, for instance, saying 我肚子疼 (wǒ dùzi téng) instead.

Some speakers feel that 疼 (téng) is more conversational and natural-sounding, but either will get your message across clearly.

Describing common symptoms and ailments

Next, we’ll learn to talk about some of the most common injuries, symptoms, and ailments.

Phrase Chinese translation Pinyin
Cold 感冒 Gǎnmào
Cough 咳嗽 Késòu
Runny nose 流鼻涕 Liú bítì
Stuffy nose 鼻塞 Bísè
Sore throat 喉咙痛 Hóulóng tòng
Sneeze 打喷嚏 Dǎ pēntì
Fever 发烧 Fāshāo
Headache 头痛 Tóutòng
Diarrhea 腹泻 / 拉肚子 Fùxiè / lādùzi
Vomiting 呕吐 Ǒutù
Nauseous 恶心 Ěxīn
Constipation 便秘 Biànmì
Dizzy 头晕 Tóuyūn
Chills 发冷 Fā lěng
Shortness of breath 呼吸急促 Hūxī jícù

To put these terms into complete sentences, you’ll typically add a 我 (wǒ) before each one.

我 translates to “I” or “me,” so you’re confirming that you’re the person experiencing those symptoms.

If you’ve brought someone else to see the doctor, you’ll use 他 (tā) instead. 他 translates to “he,” so the doctor understands that the other person (and not you) requires medical attention.

On a side note, 她 (tā) means “she.”

You’ll only need to differentiate both 他 and 她 in writing because both words are pronounced similarly in conversations.

Let’s put what we’ve learned into some example sentences.

Listen to audio

我发烧了。

Wǒ fāshāole.
I have a fever.
Listen to audio

我拉肚子。

Wǒ lādùzi.
I have diarrhea.
Listen to audio

我头晕。

Wǒ tóuyūn.
I'm feeling dizzy.

Your doctor may then ask you how long you’ve been experiencing these symptoms. The question may go something along the lines of 多久了?(duōjiǔle), meaning “How long has it been?”

In this case, you’ll reply with either of the following:-

  • 天 (tiān): Day
  • 星期 (xīngqí): Week
  • 月 (yuè): Month

So if it’s been a day, you’ll reply with 一天 (Yītiān), meaning “one day.”

You can check out our complete guide to Chinese numbers, which will be very useful here.

**Talking about the cause **

Explaining the cause of any injuries could help your doctor better recommend the next course of action.

For instance, if you fell down and injured your arm, you can say 我摔倒了 (wǒ shuāi dǎo le), meaning, “I fell down.”

Or, if you are visiting the hospital after being hit by a car, you could say 我被车撞了 (wǒ bèi chē zhuàngle), which translates to “I was hit by a car.”

Alternatively, you can say 我出车祸了 (wǒ chū chēhuòle), which means, “I was in a car accident.”

**Other important medical details **

Your doctor may ask if you have any allergies. This ensures you get a medication that’s safe for yourself.

The phrase to keep in mind is 药物过敏 (yàowù guòmǐn), which translates to “drug allergies.”

Listen to audio

你有什么药物过敏吗?

Nǐ yǒu shénme yàowù guòmǐn ma?
Do you have any drug allergies?

You’ll then reply with 有 (yǒu) for “Yes, I do.”

Alternatively, you’ll say 没有 (méiyǒu) for “No, I don’t.”

Your doctor may also want to know if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

This could change their treatment recommendations and ensure the safety of your baby.

Here’s what you can say:

Listen to audio

我怀孕。

Wǒ huáiyùn.
I'm expecting. / I'm pregnant.

You may hear different terms used for breastfeeding. These include 哺乳 (bǔrǔ) and 喂奶 (wèinǎi).

Your prescription in Mandarin Chinese

Depending on where you’ve gone to get medical help, your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse may explain how you can take each medication.

Understanding how to take your medications correctly is critical. And we don’t want a communication barrier to hinder that. So, we’ll cover some common phrases used to talk about medications and medical regimens.

Again, you’ll need a basic understanding of Chinese numbers.

Feel free to check out our Chinese numbers guide.

In addition to Chinese numbers, here are some phrases you’ll likely hear.

  • 药物 (yàowù): Medication
  • 一粒 (yī lì): One tablet
  • 一次 (yīcì): Once
  • 饭后 (fàn hòu): After meal
  • 饭前 (fàn qián): Before meal

Here’s an example of what you may hear when receiving your medications and instructions on how to use them.

Listen to audio

这是你的感冒药。一天吃三次, 每次两粒。

Zhè shì nǐ de gǎnmào yào. Yītiān chī sāncì, měi cì liǎng lì.
This is your cold medication. Take it three times a day, and take two tablets each time.

Let’s break it down.

The first sentence uses the word 药 (yào), which means medication. Meanwhile, 感冒 (gǎnmào), which means “cold,” is used to specify the type of medication you’re receiving.

The second sentence comes in two parts. The first part contains 吃 (chī), which means “eat,” and 次 (cì), which refers to the frequency.

In this context, 一次 (yīcì) means “once a day,” 两次 is “twice a day,” 三次 means “three times a day,” and so on.

The second part of the sentence contains the phrase 每次 (měi cì), meaning “each time.”

Meanwhile, 粒 is a classifier for small, round things, like pills. The number of pills to take is specified by adding a number before 粒 (lì).

Your healthcare professional might not structure the instructions exactly like the example above, but listening out for these key phrases will help you identify what you need to know.

Here are some other common vocabulary terms you can keep an ear out for when discussing medications in Mandarin Chinese.

Phrase Chinese translation Pinyin
Cold medication 感冒药 Gǎnmào yào
Headache medication 头痛药 Tóutòng yào
Anti-inflammatory medication 消炎药 Xiāoyán yào
Diarrhea medication 腹泻药 Fùxiè yào
Stomach medication 胃药 Wèi yào
Antibiotics 抗生素 Kàngshēngsù
Vitamin 维生素 Wéishēngsù

Last but not least, don’t forget to finish off your conversation by thanking your healthcare professional.

To thank someone in Mandarin Chinese, you can simply say 谢谢 (xièxiè).

Alternatively, you can say 谢谢你 (xièxiè nǐ) or 谢谢您 (xièxiè nín). 您 is used instead of 你 when you wish to show respect to someone elder.

Speaking to a doctor in Mandarin Chinese can be challenging.

Because we’re unlikely to use Chinese medical terms in our daily conversations, they can be harder to pick up.

But the last thing we want to deal with when we need medical attention is a communication barrier.

Smaller cities in China are less likely to have English-speaking hospitals or clinic staff. It’s always best to be prepared for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances when visiting a foreign country.

Try your best to arm yourself with these basic Chinese terms for seeing a doctor.

If need be, you can have some of these phrases recorded in your notebook or phone. They’ll come in handy whenever you wish to practice or when you’re at the doctor’s and need some extra help!


Know of any other important Chinese phrases to use when visiting the doctor?

Let us know in the comments below!

Share link Grab the link to this article
Copy Link
Support me by sharing:
  • Reddit share
  • Facebook share
  • Twitter share

Let me help you learn Mandarin
JOIN THE GUILD:

Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek
Greek

COMMENTS

Comment Policy: I love comments and feedback (positive and negative) but I have my limits. You're in my home here so act accordingly.
NO ADVERTISING. Links will be automatically flagged for moderation.
"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
© The Mezzofanti Guild, 2022. NAGEL PTY LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Join The Guild

Let Me Help You Learn Mandarin Chinese

  • Get my exclusive Mandarin content delivered straight to your inbox.
  • Learn about the best Mandarin language resources that I've personally test-driven.
  • Get insider tips for learning Mandarin.

No spam. Ever.