How to talk about a health emergency in Spanish

by Maria Inês Teixeira
January 12, 2021
woman having a medical emergency

“Please don’t ruin my dreams of travelling to Barcelona with your negativity!”, you may be thinking. Health emergency in Spanish? Come on! You’re clearly going to be enjoying your tapas, dancing to the best of Catalan music and rejoicing in the wonders of Gaudi’s architecture. What could possibly go wrong in the world’s healthiest country?

Well, one of the most pressing, stressful stories of my life have happened abroad, while travelling in Greece. A French tourist fell off her bike and was bleeding severely from her head, until a crowd of German, Greek and Portuguese (me!) tourists gathered around and started communicating in several languages to get an ambulance to the scene as quickly as possible.

Would you be ready to help yourself or someone else in Spanish? That’s the topic we’re going to be addressing today!

Essential medical documents in Spanish

If you ever find yourself – or someone else – in a situation of medical emergency, you’re likely to be asked for the following documents: el pasaporte (passport), la identificación (identification) or, if you happen to be helping a Spanish citizen, the word el documento nacional de identidad/DNI (the Spanish identification card for Spanish citizens) might show up. If you need to call someone for help, remember to introduce yourself (Me llamo…/Soy…) and explain your current location (Estoy en…).

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Who can help if you have an emergency in a Spanish speaking country?

If faced with a health emergency, you can always call 112 (in Spain). But there are a few keywords you’ll want to know!

la ambulancia – the ambulance
las emergencias – the emergency room
el médico – the doctor
el hospital – the hospital
la farmacia – the pharmacy
el laboratorio – the lab
la embajada – the embassy / el consulado the consulate
la policía – the police
el medicamento / la medicina – the medicine
Asking for help in Spanish – pedir ayuda

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There are different ways to ask for help in Spanish, but the basic expressions you can use are here:

¡Ayuda! (“Help!”) / ¡Necesito ayuda! – “I need help!”
¿Puede ayudarme? – talking to a single person, formal – “Can you help me?”
¿Pueden ayudarme? – talking to a group – “Can you help me?”
¡Pida ayuda! – talking to one person, formal – “Ask for help!”
¡Pidan ayuda! – talking to a group – “Ask for help!”
¡Llame a una ambulancia! – talking to one person, formal – “Call an ambulance!”
¡Llamen a una ambulancia! – talking to a group – “Call an ambulance!”

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How to explain your health problem in Spanish

Because we are focusing on health emergencies today, here are some situations in which you might need urgent support and how you can explain them:

¡Ha habido un accidente! – “There was an accident!”
Necesito una ambulancia. – “I need an ambulance.”
Me siento mal. – “I feel bad/sick.”
Mi tipo de sangre es… (“My blood type is…”
Me duele el pecho. (- “My chest hurts.”
Tengo diabetes. – “I have diabetes.”
Soy alérgico(a) a… – “I’m allergic to… – use “o” if you identify as a male and “a” if you identify as a female
Tengo fiebre. – I have a fever.
Me he cortado! – I got a cut! – literally “I cut myself!”
Me he quemado! – I got burnt! – literally “I burnt myself!”
Creo que me rompí el/la… (“I think I broke my…”) – for example, “Creo que me rompí el brazo.” – “I think I broke my arm.”
No puedo… (I can’t…) – for example, “No puedo respirar.” – I can’t breathe.

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Helping someone else in Spanish

You’ll be fit to help someone when you ask these questions to understand the situation better:

¿Está usted bien? – talking to one person, formal – “Are you ok?”
¿Están bien? – talking to a group – “Are you ok?”
¿Puede decirme lo que sucedió? – talking to one person, formal – “Can you tell me what happened?”
¿Cuándo sucedió? – “When did it happen?”
¿Es la primera vez que le pasa? – talking to one person, formal – “Is it the first time that it happens to you?”
¿Está herido(a)? – talking to one person, formal – “Are you wounded?” – you can use “o” when talking to a man and “a” when talking to a woman
¿Está embarazada? – “Are you pregnant?”
¿Puede verme/oírme? – talking to one person, formal – “Can you see me/hear me?”
¿Puede moverse? – talking to one person, formal – “Can you move?”
¿Dónde le duele? – talking to one person, formal – “Where does it hurt?”
¿Es alérgico(a) a algo? – talking to one person, formal – “Are you allergic to anything? – you can use “o” when talking to a man and “a” when talking to a woman

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If you’d like to support the person further, you can inspire calm and hope by using phrases such as:

Voy a llamar a una ambulancia. – “I’m going to call an ambulance.”
Están en camino. – “They’re on the way.”
Por favor, no se mueva. – talking to one person, formal – “Please, don’t move.”
Por favor, no se muevan. – talking to a group – “Please, don’t move.”
¡Mantenga la calma! – talking to one person, formal – “Stay calm!”
¡Mantengan la calma! – talking to a group – “Stay calm!”

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Are you ready?

You might be thinking to yourself “I’d need to know advanced Spanish in order to understand anything in the middle of that chaos!”, but if your Spanish level is somewhere between an A2 and a B1 (upper beginner – lower intermediate), you’d be surprised at how much you can understand, especially under pressure! Of course, you can always brush up on your Spanish and build up some confidence before going abroad.

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