Essential tips in Mandarin language when getting sick on the road

Whenever we get out of our comfort zone we always run the risk to get sick. Be it the water, the food or even a sudden change in weather, we need to be able to ask for help. Any of us can be in need of a doctor or a pharmacy, and there is nothing more frustrating than being sick and not being able to communicate with the only person able to help us. In this article I will give you some tips on how to deal with type of unpleasant situations in Mandarin language.

Mandarin language if you get sick

Chinese medicine for cold

Truth be said, in Shanghai there are many Western hospitals where doctors speak English, but they are hugely expensive, because meant for expats. Also, it’s also possible that you will not be in Shanghai, but exploring some other parts of China where English is still not as important to know and you are better off mastering some phrases in Mandarin language.

Moreover, in Shanghai, and I believe in Beijing too, also local hospitals are increasingly hiring English-speaking staff, but they are not so common yet, so probably a basic knowledge and understanding of what to say in Mandarin language in these cases can help.


In China, Facebook and other websites are filtered. This is why it’s good to have a VPN service to be able to access all websites by connecting from foreign servers. I use ExpressVPN because it’s the most reliable among the ones I have tried, paid and free. ExpressVPN gives you a fast connection, a big choice of servers and you can install it in more than one device. You can do a monthly or annual subscription, obviously the annual is cheaper: last time I bought it was one month at the cost of $12.95, while the annual package costs $8.32 per month.
Click here for more information on different packages and latest prices.


Mandarin language if you get sick

Many kinds of teas are part of traditional Chinese medicine

I would say that the first thing you can think of if you are sick abroad, is to get to the hospital (yi yuan – 医院) and see a doctor (kan yi sheng – 看医生). You would approach the doctor telling him you don’t feel well: “Dàifu, wo hen bù shufu” (大夫, 我很不舒服), and he will reply asking you what’s wrong: “Ni nali bù shufu?” (你哪里不舒服?).

You might have the typical symptoms of the flu, such as a headache (tóu téng – 头疼), cough (ké sòu – 咳嗽), fever (fa shao – 发烧), which, in a complete sentence, might sound like this: “Tóu téng, ké sòu, haoxiàng you yì dianr fa shao” (头疼, 咳嗽, 好像有一点儿发烧).

If these are your symptoms, very likely, the doctor will tell you that you caught a cold or the flu, so he will give you the prescription for the medicines to buy and how many days to take them, and will suggest going back to see him if you don’t get better: “Ni ganmào le, wo gei ni dianr yào, zhèxie yào yàofáng dou néng mai dào. Ni xian chi san tian, rúguo hái bù hao, zài lái yi yuàn.” (你感冒了, 我给你点儿药, 这些药药房都能买到. 你先吃三天, 如果还不好, 再来医院).

–>> Some of the most precious tools for learning Mandarin Chinese is a dictionary and in this field brands like Oxford or Collins are excellent. Click here for more information on availability and the latest prices.

Some of the most common symptoms in the Mandarin language are:

To catch a cold: Ganmào le (感冒了)

Headache: Tóu téng (头疼)

Coughing: Ké sòu (咳嗽)

Stomachache: Wèi tòng (胃痛)

Sore eyes: Wo yanjing bù shufu (我眼睛不舒服)

Fever: Fa shao (发烧)

Toothache: Yá tèng (牙疼)

Have diarrhea: La dùzi (拉肚子)

Mandarin language if you get sick

Preparing Chinese soup. In traditional Chinese medicine, food is an important way to prevent being sick and strengthen the immune system


If you are traveling to China and need a bit of quick help to get by in Mandarin Chinese language you might find very handy this 6-page Chinese Vocabulary, a guide divided into tables that show Chinese characters, the pinyin (transliteration of Chinese characters into Latin alphabet) and the English translation.

If you are on a business trip or are planning to stay in China a little longer, improve your Chinese language with an easy-to-use Chinese Flash Cards Kit to learn the most frequently used Chinese characters quickly and easily.


Once your visit ends, you might be able to buy the medicines directly at the hospital’s pharmacy (Yào fang – 药房) or you might need to get to a chemist (Yào diàn –  药店) for either Western or Chinese traditional medicine. The first thing you will tell the chemist after they ask you how they can help you is that you need to buy medicines: “Ni hao, wo yao mai yào” (你好, 我要买药). Very likely, the chemist will ask you to show him the prescription (chufang – 处方): “Qing, gei wo kan nide chufang” (请给我看你的处方).

When you get the medicine, you will obviously need to know how many times a day to take it: twice a day (yì tian chi liang cì – 一天吃两次), three times a day (yì tian chi san cì – 一天吃三次), four times a day (yì tian chi si cì – 一天吃四次), etc., or eat after meal (fàn hòu chi – 饭后吃).

The whole sentence of the chemist telling you for example that your kind of medicine is to be taken twice a day every morning and evening (zaowan ge yí cì – 早晚各一次) after meal and each time two tablets, might sound like this in Mandarin language: “Zhe zhong yao yì tian chi liang cì, zaowan ge yí cì, mei cì liang piàn, fàn hòu chi” (这种药一天吃两次, 早晚各一次, 每次两片, 饭后吃).

It’s obviously impossible to list all kinds of sickness and all the treatments a doctor or chemist can give you. Here I tried to describe the most common situations and a variety of word combinations in the Mandarin language you might find in the prescription, but, as usual, if you think I’ve missed something important, leave a comment and I will update the post.


Did you find this post helpful? If so, you might like also my other posts where I give tips on how to deal with everyday life situations in Mandarin Chinese:

When traveling

When renting a house

When asking for directions

Ordering food at a restaurant

To deal with money and banks

  1. Quel article interessant! ça me rappelle quand on a été à Pékin( pardon Beijing) , dans le resto de notre hotel, quel fatigue pour avoir de l’eau! Mais qu’est-ce qu’on s’est amusés!!!

  2. Anche i dottori che abbiamo incontrato sulla strada della Grande Muraglia sono riusciti a farsi capire!!! Lampu!?

  3. This is a very important lesson. So far, I haven’t needed to seek medical assistance when in a foreign country, but we should all be prepared!

    • True, as we always bring some drug, I think it’s important to be prepared with some language too, especially with a difficult language such as the Chinese, where if you don’t know a word and the other part doesn’t speak any English, the conversation can go really blank, it’s truly impossible to “guess”.

  4. I fared better in Shanghai than Beijing, but in both cases my Mandarin could have been better. We usually pack a small pharmacy as we often forget that most places aren’t like the US where you can get just about anything you might need for minor illness. You do have to be careful at customs, though.

    • In China I’m finding everything at the pharmacies, both traditional Chinese and Western medicine, just the problem was to be able to say what was actually my problem.. Ok, not that now ALL my language issues are solved, but it’s getting better :)

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.