Feeling Sick in Serbian: Essential Phrases to Say You’re Not Well

A white mug, paper tissues, and eyeglasses.

Getting sick is never fun. Even the common cold can leave you lying in bed cursing the day you were born. However, falling ill in a foreign country — especially if you can’t speak the local language — can cause you serious trouble. Therefore, knowing essential phrases for feeling sick in Serbian can be a real lifesaver — figuratively and literally.

After all, even if you see a doctor, it will do you little good unless you can explain your symptoms. With all this in mind, we’ll share the essential Serbian phrases you can use when you’re not well. Grab a tissue, and let’s begin!

Feeling Sick in Serbian

Before we get into the actual expressions, you should know who to contact when you get sick while staying in Serbia. In most cases, you’ll need a lekar (physician), also known as a doktor (doctor).

But if you need urgent help and require an ambulance, that’s hitna pomoć. In Serbian, the number you need to call to get an ambulance is 194.

In case of a toothache, you’ll need a zubar (dentist). Finally, if you’re fine but your pet is having health issues, you’ll want to see a veterinar (vet).

Now that you know who to ask for help, let’s see how you can do it.

How to Say You’re Not Well in Serbian?

First of all, if a friend notices that you look unwell, they’re probably going to ask Kako si?, which means How are you? In case you look really peaked, they might go with Šta ti je? (What’s wrong?).

If you don’t feel like getting into details, you can stick with vague answers. For example:

Nije mi dobro.

(I’m not feeling well.)

Loše mi je.

(I’m feeling unwell.)

Bolestan sam/Bolesna sam.

(I’m sick.)

Nešto sam bezveze.

(I’m a bit out of sorts.)

These phrases are fine when you’re talking to your friends or family. On the other hand, when visiting a doctor, you’ll need to be more specific and explain your symptoms in more detail. Below, we’ll show you how to do that.

A man with his hand on his face.
Nije mi dobro 😷

Mučnina (nausea)

If you eat food of questionable quality or freshness and start feeling sick, you can say:

Muka mi je.

(I’m feeling nauseous.)

If it gets worse and you feel like you can’t keep the food down, this phrase covers it:

Povratiću!

(I’m going to throw up!)

Prehlada (common cold)

The common cold is not a big deal, but when you catch it, it sure feels like it is. The symptoms can vary, but here are the most common ones:

Prehladio sam se/Prehladila sam se.

(I caught a cold.)

Curi mi nos.

(I have a runny nose.)

Imam kašalj.

(I have a cough.)

Zapušen mi je nos.

(My nose is blocked.)

All of this can be hard to deal with, so people sometimes get dramatic and say:

Umirem!

(I’m dying!)

By the way, do you know what to say when someone sneezes in front of you?

The sneezer: Apćiha!

(Yup, that’s how you sneeze in Serbian 🙂)

You: Nazdravlje!

(Bless you!)

Grip (flu)

The flu is like a common cold on steroids. It comes with all the symptoms from above and adds fever to the equation. In some cases, it can also lead to pneumonia. Here’s how to talk about it:

Imam grip.

(I have a flu.)

Imam temperaturu.*

(I have a fever.)

Imam zapaljenje pluća.

(I have pneumonia.)

*Logically speaking, the phrase Imam temperaturu is incorrect. In literal translation, it means I have a temperature, and, as you know, all people have a certain temperature. However, this phrase has become so common that no one pays attention to it. The expression that’s both logically and grammatically correct is — Imam povišenu temperaturu (I have a heightened temperature). Ultimately, either of these will get your point across, so — use whichever.

Bol (pain)

Being in pain is truly unfortunate. On the plus side, though, expressing it in Serbian is pretty easy. No matter which part of your body hurts, just use one of these:

  • Singular – Boli me…
  • Plural – Bole me…

To illustrate, here are some common aches:

Boli me glava.

(I have a headache.)

Boli me grlo.

(I have a sore throat.)

Boli me zub.
(I have a toothache.)

Boli me stomak.

(I have a stomach ache.)

Boli me vrat.
(I have neck pain.)

Bole me leđa.

(I have back pain.)

Bole me oči.

(My eyes hurt.)

Finally, if you’re aching all over, you can just say:

Sve me boli.

A man with one hand on his eyes and holding eyeglasses with the other.
Mnogo me bole oči 😵

Vrtoglavica (dizziness)

Whether you’re sick or you just skipped breakfast, you might feel a bit dizzy. In that case, you can say:

Vrti mi se u glavi.

(I’m dizzy.)

If it gets worse and you begin to feel like you might faint, here’s how to express that:

Onesvestiću se.

(I’m going to pass out.)

The following phrase is informal but gets the point across just the same:

Srušiću se.

(I’m going to collapse.)

Seeing a Doctor in Serbian

With the phrases explained, you’re ready to make an appointment with a Serbian doctor. Once you see them, your GP will first ask you what’s wrong. At this time, just use the above expressions to talk about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Here’s an example:

Doctor: U čemu je problem?

(What’s the matter?)

You: Imam kašalj i boli me glava. Imam i temperaturu.

(I have a cough and a headache. I also have a fever.)

After the doctor takes your temperature and checks your throat, they’ll prescribe a medicine if necessary.

Doctor: Prepisaću Vam lek za snižavanje temperature. Uzimajte po dve tablete tri puta dnevno.

(I’ll prescribe a fever-reducing medicine. Take two pills three times a day.)

At the Pharmacy

After your appointment, you’ll head to a pharmacy to get your meds. This part is easy because you’ll only need to show the pharmacist the prescription your GP gave you. So, instead of phrases, here’s some helpful vocabulary:

 

Serbian

English

apoteka

pharmacy

lek

medicine

tableta

pill, tablet

recept

prescription

prepisati

prescribe

antibiotik

antibiotic

probiotik

probiotic

analgetik

painkiller

Serbian Traditional Remedies (Not) to Use When You Get Sick

Before wrapping up, we’ll share a few traditional Serbian remedies passed down through generations. Now, since our grandpas and grandmas are as superstitious as they’re well-intentioned, these remedies range from mildly effective to downright ridiculous. Let’s see what they are.

Rakija vs Fever

Picture this. You’re ten years old, and you’ve got the flu. You’re burning up with fever, and just when you think things can’t get any worse, you see your Serbian grandma approaching with a bottle of rakija. While you’re screaming, she’s applying that cold, smelly liquid to your hot skin.

Yup, Serbian elders believe that rakija is a sort of cure-all. We don’t know if it can actually lower your body temperature, but one thing’s sure — having a fever feels much better than undergoing this therapy.

Corn Flour vs Fever

Here’s another fever remedy from hell. For this one, you’ll need corn flour and vinegar. After combining them, apply them to your bare feet. Then, put on a pair of thick socks and wait for the flour paste to soak up your heat and lower your body temperature.

Just like the previous one, the effect of this remedy is highly debatable. However, the horrifying feeling of wearing socks full of wet corn flour is unquestionably nightmarish.

Tea For Everything

On a less bizarre note, herbal teas are an important part of Serbian alternative medicine. In theory, whatever ails you, there’s a herb that can help you feel better.

For example, if you’re having a stomach ache, you should drink mint tea (čaj od nane). When you’re upset, chamomile tea (čaj od kamilice) can help you calm down. In case of a sore throat, rinsing it with sage tea (čaj od žalfije) will soothe the inflammation.

Although we’re not sure how effective these are, at least drinking tea won’t cause more suffering, unlike the previous cures.

When upset, drink čaj od kamilice 🍵

Get Well And Learn Serbian

Finally, you’re equipped with the key phrases that you need to say you’re sick in Serbian. Obviously, we hope you won’t need to use them any time soon. But even if you get unwell while staying in Serbia, it’ll be okay because now you know how to talk to a doctor and your friends about it.

And if you’d like to improve your Serbian further, sign up for our group classes. These will allow you to join forces with other students and learn real-life Serbian that you can use in this and many other everyday situations.

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