41 New Ways to Talk about Feeling Sick in English

Mar 7, 2018 | Advanced Vocabulary, English Conversation

Where I live it’s flu season right now, which means a period of time when many people get sick or come down with the flu. In fact, this year, it’s nearly an epidemic! Everyone’s talking about it. So, how should you talk about feeling sick in English if you don’t feel well?

Of course, when you have a cold or have the flu you probably don’t want to go to work. That means you’ll need to call your boss and tell them what’s going on.

Or perhaps a friend calls and asks how you’re doing. All you want to talk about is how bad you feel.

If it’s really bad, you might even need to visit a doctor to get medical help. And that means you’ll need to explain your symptoms.

So how do you do that in English? In today’s Confident English lesson, I’m going to tell you how.

This lesson has a lot of new vocabulary and expressions. To get the most from this lesson, be sure to watch the video but I’ve also shared the new vocabulary below the video.

Find out exactly what to say when you’re sick.

Lesson by Annemarie

Talking about Feeling Sick in English

Common symptoms of the cold and the flu include:

  • To have a runny nose
  • To have a stuffy nose
  • To have the sniffles
  • To have a scratchy or itchy throat
  • To have a sore throat
  • To have a cough
  • To sneeze


More serious symptoms include:

  • To have a headache
  • To have body aches
  • To have a backache
  • To have a fever or temperature
  • To feel dizzy


You might also have the stomach flu or a stomach bug, which includes feeling nauseous (or to have an upset stomach) and vomiting. When someone is vomiting a lot – whether due to the stomach flu or because they had food poisoning – we say they can’t keep or hold anything down.

Or you may have diarrhea, which is when you need to go to the bathroom, like right now! Informally, we also say to have the runs.


Now there’s just one more thing to talk about and this is when you have an allergic reaction to something. Perhaps you already are allergic to something like bees or peanuts. To be allergic to something or to have an allergy means you must avoid contact with that thing.

Common allergic reactions include:

  • To get, to develop, or to have a rash
  • To get hives
  • To sneeze a lot
  • To get or to have itchy or watery eyes

If you need to call into work to let your boss know that you’re staying home for the day, you might say:

  • I’ve come down with the flu.
  • I’m not feeling well. I’ve got the flu.
  • I’m not well and I need to visit the doctor today.
  • I’ve got a serious cold/flu.

Depending on your work, your boss may require a doctor’s note.


If your friend calls, you might be a bit more informal to talk about how bad you feel. For example:

  • I’m as sick as a dog. (This means really sick)
  • I hurt all over.
  • I feel like crap.

Now you have 41 different ways to help you talk about feeling sick English!

In order to learn and remember these new words and expressions, it’s important to immediately practice. So I’d like you to answer the question below:

  1. When was the last time you were sick and what were your symptoms?

The best place to share, learn from the community, and get feedback from me is in the comments section at the end of the lesson.

Have a great (and healthy) week!


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