How to talk about being sick in German

How to talk about being sick in German

by Brita Corzilius

Updated November 7, 2022

If you are living in Germany, one day you might be sick and need assistance. In Germany, doctor visits are only possible if you have valid health insurance (die Krankenversicherung) and you need to hand in sick leave (die Krankmeldung) written by a doctor, usually after three days of sickness. Most Doctors will be able to talk basic English, but it is always better to know German phrases if the nurses or doctors are not able to respond to you. Today, I will give you basic knowledge about medical vocabulary and how to talk about being sick in German. 

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Visiting a doctor in Germany

Making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

Doctors in Germany usually have consultation hours (die Sprechstunde) where you can just drop in. Often these consultation hours are very busy and you might have to wait for a long time, which can be quite exhausting if you don’t feel well. It makes sense to call them beforehand and they either give you an appointment or tell you to come at a specific time to reduce the waiting time.

You can ask them on the phone:

“Ich hätte gerne einen Termin. Wann kann ich vorbeikommen?” – I would like to have an appointment. When can I come over?

“Wann ist Ihre Sprechstunde?” – What time are your consultation hours? 

“Ich würde gern einen Termin machen.” – I would like to book an appointment. 

The nurse will ask you on the phone already what assistance you need or what is wrong. You can answer:

If you have pain in a certain spot you can also say:

“Mir tut der Bauch weh.” – My tummy/stomach hurts. 

“Ich habe mich verletzt.” – I have injured myself 

“Ich habe eine Verletzung am Bein.” – I have an injury on my leg. 

“Ich hatte einen Unfall.” – I had an accident.

“Ich fühle mich schlecht. Ich habe ____ “– I am feeling bad/sick. I have ____

Symptoms of sickness in German

Here are some common symptoms:

die Kopfschmerzen – headache

das Fieber – fever

die Erkältungssymptome – flu symptoms

die Schmerzen – pain

die Bauchschmerzen – stomach ache

die Rückenschmerzen –  back aches

Vocabulary for the doctor’s office

When you are finally seeing the doctor, they will examine you, prescribe medicines and write a sick note in German if you have to stay at home.

The German word for prescription equals the word for food recipe, so please don’t get confused.

The doctor may say:

“Ich schreibe Ihnen ein Rezept und eine Krankschreibung.” – I will write you a prescription and a sick leave. 

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Emergencies in German

If you happen to have an emergency, you can use these phrases to make people aware that you need help:

“Entschuldigung, ich brauche Hilfe!” – Excuse me, I need help.

“Können Sie mir helfen?” – Can you help me?

“Ich hatte einen Unfall, ich brauche einen Arzt!” – I had an accident, I need a doctor!

“Wo finde ich den nächsten Arzt? /die nächste Apotheke?” – Where can I find the next Doctor/pharmacy?

How to tell your boss that you’re sick 

After or before you went to the doctor and got your German sick leave letter, you will have to tell your company that you will not come to work until you feel better.

In Germany there is a cultural rule of “sick is sick”. Do not attempt to go to work if you are really sick. If you still do so, your boss might send you back home. 

You have to notify your boss immediately about being sick. The sick leave can be handed in within three days. 

You can tell your boss:

“Es tut mir leid aber ich kann heute nicht arbeiten.” – I am really sorry but I cannot come to work today.

“Ich bin krank.” – I am sick.

“Ich muss mich leider krank melden.” – Unfortunately I have to call in sick. 

Your boss will probably respond:

“Werd schnell gesund!” – Get well quickly. 

Last but not least, how to say “get well soon” in German? “Gute Besserung.” 

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