Going to the doctor in Spanish

by Maria Inês Teixeira
January 13, 2021
woman going to an appointment to see a doctor in spanish

Going to the doctor is a stressful experience in and of itself. Doing it abroad? Even worse.

But trying to speak to a doctor or receptionist who isn’t fluent in English and can’t really understand your problem? Awful. That’s why you’ll want to have a basic grasp of health and doctor visit vocabulary in Spanish, just in case you need it (hopefully, you won’t ever!). 

How do you speak Spanish at the doctor, then? Let’s take a look at our list. Make sure you practice this vocabulary out loud with a friend before you ever have to use it in real life. Your appointment will work out better if you know what to say before things take a wrong turn! Of course, culture and context also matter when visiting a doctor in a Spanish-speaking country, so make sure you get informed about local customs and expectations.

1. How to book a doctor’s appointment in Spanish

The keyword here is cita (appointment). Here are some things you can say on the phone when you want to book your visit to the doctor in a Spanish-speaking country:

  • Me llamo Sarah Smith / Me llamo John Ellis. – My name’s Sarah Smith. / My name’s John Ellis.
  • Me gustaría pedir una cita con el médico. / Me gustaría pedir una cita con el doctor García. / Me gustaría pedir una cita con la doctora García (female). – I’d like to book an appointment with the doctor. / I would like to book an appointment with Dr. García.
  • Necesito hacer una cita con el médico. / Necesito hacer una cita con el doctor García. / Necesito hacer una cita con la doctora García. – I need to have an appointment with the doctor. / I need to have an appointment with Dr. García.
  • ¿Cuándo es posible pedir una cita? – When is it possible to request/book an appointment?
  • Voy a explicar mis síntomas. – I’m going to explain my symptoms. / Estos son mis síntomas. – These are my symptoms.
  • ¿Qué documentos debo traer conmigo? – What documents should I bring with me?)
  • Tengo seguro médico. / No tengo seguro médico. – I have health insurance. / I don’t have health insurance.
  • ¿Mi cita está confirmada? – Is my appointment confirmed?
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta la cita? – How much is the appointment?
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta el examen? – How much is the exam/examination?

Some time expressions come in handy here. For example, you might want your appointment to take place…

  • hoy – today
  • mañana – tomorrow
  • esta semana – this week
  • la próxima semana – next week
  • lo más pronto posible – as soon as possible
  • por la mañana – in the morning
  • por la tarde – in the afternoon
  • a las tres. – at 3 o’clock
  • al mediodía – at noon

2. Talking to the receptionist in Spanish

So you’ve managed to book your appointment and show up at the doctor’s office. Now you’re ready to introduce your issue and explain why you came to see Dr. García! Here are some expressions you might hear from the receptionist: 

  • ¿Cómo se llama? / ¿Cuál es su nombre completo?  – What’s your name? / What’s your full name?
  • ¿En qué podemos ayudarle? – How can we help you?
  • Su identificación, por favor. – Your identification, please.
  • Por favor, tome asiento. – Please, take a seat.
  • Por favor, aguarde en la sala de espera. – Please, wait in the waiting room.
  • Puede pasar. – You can pass/go.
  • El doctor le está esperando. – The doctor awaits you.

As for your side of the story, use these expressions to help the conversation run smoothly:

  • Me llamo Sarah Smith / Me llamo John Ellis. – My name’s Sarah Smith. / My name’s John Ellis.
  • Tengo una cita con el doctor García a las 11. /  Tengo una cita con la doctora García a las 11. – I have an appointment with Dr. García at 11 o’clock.
  •  Hablamos por teléfono ayer. – We spoke on the phone yesterday.
  • ¿Dónde está el baño? / ¿Dónde está el servicio? – Where’s the toilet?
  • ¿Puedo esperar aqui? – Can I wait here?
  • Aquí está mi identificación. – Here’s my ID.
  • ¿Dónde queda el consultorio del doctor García? /  ¿Dónde queda el consultorio de la doctora García? – Where’s Dr. García’s consulting room?

3. Talking about your symptoms in Spanish

Talking about how you feel in Spanish is quite easy, once you get the hang of basic words that can easily adapt from case to case. For example, the word for “pain” in Spanish (including the article) is el dolor. We also know that the verb “to hurt” (as in, to have pain) is doler. From here, you can explain the following: 

  • Tengo dolor de cabeza. / Me duele la cabeza. – I have a headache / My head hurts.
  • Estoy con dolor de estómago. / Me duele el estómago. – I have a stomachache. / My stomach hurts. 
  • Tengo dolor de oídos. / Me duelen los oídos. – I have an earache. / My ears hurt.
  • Tengo dolor en la garganta. / Me duele la garganta. – I have a throat ache. / My throat hurts.

See? It’s actually quite logical and easy to put together! As for other common problems, you can use this short list as a reference:

  • Tengo fiebre. – I have a fever.
  • Me mareo. – I’m feeling dizzy.
  • Tengo gripe. – I have the flu.
  • Estoy resfriado(a) / Tengo un resfriado. – I have a cold.
  • No puedo comer. – I can’t eat.
  • No puedo respirar. – I can’t breathe.
  • Tengo tos. – I have a cough.
  • No puedo moverme. – I can’t move.
  • No puedo dejar de temblar. – I can’t stop shaking.
  • Tengo una comezón en todo el cuerpo. – I have an itch all over my body.
  • Tengo poca energía. – I have low energy.

Sometimes it’s not so much about the symptoms, but rather special conditions you must tell your doctor. For example, if you’re pregnant, you should say Estoy embarazada”. If you’re allergic to something, you should use the expression “Soy alérgico(a) a…”. For instance, you can say “Soy alérgica a la penicilina” (I’m allergic to penicillin) or “Soy alérgico a este medicamento.” (I’m allergic to this medicine).

Guide to being sick in a foreign country

4. Understanding your doctor’s questions 

If you’re going to have a conversation with your doctor, you must understand what kind of questions he might ask about your situation and symptoms. Let’s look at a common few:

  • ¿Qué le pasa? / ¿Cómo se siente? – What’s wrong? How do you feel?
  • ¿Qué síntomas tiene? – What symptoms do you have?
  • ¿Con qué frecuencia siente estos síntomas? – How frequently do you feel these symptoms?
  • ¿Tiene alguna alergia? – Do you have any allergies?
  • ¿Es esta la primera vez que le pasa esto? – Is this the first time this has happened to you?
  • ¿Qué medicinas/medicamento está tomando ahora? – What medicine are you taking right now?
  • ¿Cuál es el historial médico de su familia? – What’s your family’s medical history?
  • ¿Cuánto tiempo ha pasado desde la última vez que visitó al médico? – How long as it been since you’ve last visited the doctor?

Remember, the doctor is likely to address you formally. That’s why you’ll notice all verbs are conjugated a little differently than what you might encounter in casual conversations.

Latin America vs. Spain: 4 major differences in Spanish grammar

5. Understanding solutions given by your doctor

Depending on your problem, Dr. García is ready to send you your way with some practical suggestions! Here are some of them:

  • Tendrá que visitar a un especialista. – You’ll have to check in with a specialist.
  • Tome este medicamento una vez al día. – Take this medicine once a day.
  • No beba alcohol. / No puede beber alcohol. – Don’t drink alcohol. / You can’t drink alcohol.
  • Pida este medicamento en la farmacia. – Ask for this medicine at the pharmacy.
  • Tiene que ir al hospital. – You have to go to the hospital.
  • Tiene que hacerse una prueba. – We’ll have to get a test done.
  • Tendremos que hacer un análisis de sangre. – We’ll have to get blood work done.

Depending on the Spanish-speaking country, the word medicina might be used interchangeably with the word medicamento for “medicine”.

Are you ready to go and see a Spanish doctor? 

What is it they say in Spanish? Más vale prevenir que lamentar: literally, “it’s worthier to prevent than to be sorry”. And we agree! So before you feel the need to visit a doctor in your favourite Spanish-speaking country, give these phrases a go and see how you feel.

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