Thursday, 3 November 2011


Can i speak to Huey please?
Nowadays the word 'sick' pops up in many different contexts.  It can get a little confusing, so lets make things absolutely clear regarding it's use in medical English. As a noun 'sick' is 'vomitus', the ejected contents of ones stomach.  Yep, that extra shot of vodka doesn't seem like a good idea now, does it?!  And why are there always carrots in there?  Sorry, i just can't help myself.

A common question is "what's the difference between the expressions 'to be sick' and 'to feel sick'?"  Well to be sick is to vomit, spew, puke, barf, throw up, or talk to Huey on the big white telephone.  Yes i have heard this one used!

To feel sick has 2 clear meanings.  If you feel sick then you feel nauseous, such as if you're having cardiac chest pain, have just sniffed dog poo, have travel or sea sickness (nausea comes from the Greek 'naus' = 'ship').  So you could potentially be about to vomit, which may or may not actually happen.

On the other hand, a patient may say that they feel sick to indicate that they feel generally ill or unwell, so they could have a cold, a headache or non specific symptoms such as fatigue.  The most important point here is that if a patient says "i feel sick", then you should ask them to be more specific about the symptoms they have.

So on a Monday morning when it's time to ring in sick after a heavy weekend on the booze, or because you're simply sick and tired (to be annoyed or disappointed with something) of your dead end job, and your boss, whose continuous flirting with the new secretary makes you sick (to the stomach), asks whats wrong, you should simply reply, "I'm not very well, i'm sick as a dog".  So now you're off sick, on the sick or on sick leave, for which it's a good idea to get a sick note from your doctor to keep your sick boss off your back.