German Language Blog

How to say that you are sick in German? Posted by on Aug 16, 2012 in Language

Having a cold is never pleasant but from time to time all of us unfortunately have to suffer from it. Since I’m currently in that health condition I decided, without further ado, to make a video on this topic and tell you how to say that you are not doing well in German.



Ich fühle mich schlecht. – I feel bad.

Ich fühle mich krank. – I feel ill.

Mir geht’s nicht gut. – I’m not doing well.


Ich fühle mich wie der Tod auf Latschen. – I feel (myself) like the death on slippers / worn-out shoes.


Ich habe eine Erkältung. – I have a cold.

Ich bin erkältet. – I have a cold.

Ich brauche ein Erkältungsbad. – I need a cold and flu bath essence.

Erkältungsbad gibt man ins Badewasser. / Man gibt Erkältungsbad ins Badewasser.  – You add cold and flu bath essence to your bath water.

Ich brauche Erkältungsbalsam. – I need cold and flu ointment.

Erkältungsbalsam trägt man auf Brust und Rücken auf. / Man trägt Erkältungsbalsam auf Brust und Rücken auf.  – You apply cold and flu ointment to chest and back.


Ich habe Schnupfen. – I have rhinitis.

Ich brauche Nasentropfen. – I need nose drops.

Ich brauche Nasenspray. – I need nose spray.

Nasenspray sprüht man sich in die Nase. / Man sprüht sich Nasenspray in die Nase. – You spray nose spray into your nose.


Mir läuft die Nase. – I’ve got a runny nose.

Ich brauche Taschentücher. – I need handkerchiefs.

Ich brauche ein Taschentuch. – I need a handkerchief.

Mit einem Taschentuch putzt man sich die Nase. / Man putzt sich die Nase mit einem Taschentuch. – You wipe the nose with a handkerchief.

Mit einem Taschentuch schnaubt man sich die Nase. / Man schnaubt sich die Nase mit einem Taschentuch. – You blow your nose with a handkerchief.


Ich habe Husten. – I have a cough.

Ich brauche Hustensaft. – I need cough syrup.

Hustensaft trinkt man. / Man trinkt Hustensaft. – You drink cough syrup.


Ich habe Halsschmerzen. – I have a sore throat.

Ich brauche Halspastillen. – I need throat lozenges.

Halspastillen lutscht man. / Man lutscht Halspastillen. – You suck throat lozenges.


Ich habe Kopfschmerzen. – I have a headache.

Ich brauche Schmerztabletten. – I need aspirin / pain killers.

Schmerztabletten schluckt man. / Man schluckt Schmerztabletten. – You swallow aspirin / pain killers.


Note: As you can see and hear I gave some sentences with different word orders. You can use the former ones when you would like to emphasize the object.

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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. madeline:

    Hallo Sandra, just a tip: we say “I have a runny nose” and not “rhinitis” (no one would know what the hell that was !) for “ich habe Schnupfen” – it’s pretty much the same as “mir läuft de Nase”. We also say simply “I have a cold” which covers not just “ich habe mich erkältet” but also “ich habe Schnupfen”.

    Hope that’s of some use to you. I thnk the German expressions are more exact, but Americans usually (conversationally) just say they have a cold, and more definitively describe only if their mother or doctor is asking (ha).

    • Sandra:

      @madeline Thank you Madeline,

      I know that “to have a cold” covers both German “Schnupfen” and “Erkältung” and I have to admit that it’s often difficult for me to find acceptable translations. Here, it was important to me to emphasise that “Schnupfen” refers only to the nose. For the future, I will pay attention to indicate literal translation better.

      Liebe Grüße,

      Sandra 🙂

  2. Merli Nault:

    Dear Sandra,

    Your post was excellent and useful.
    Not sure Madeline really took it in the
    spirit with which I think it was intended.


    Thanks Again!

  3. Seth:

    I don’t really think Madeline was out of line. I’ve never heard of the word ‘rhinitis’ and I’m a native speaker. The only reason I understood it was because I knew ‘schnupfen’ already. She seemed like she tried to say it nicely.

  4. Seth:

    Also….I like this blog, I look forward to seeing her tweets so I know to come look. It really helps me keep using my German. Thank u Sandra

  5. Mark:

    Hallo Sandra,

    Many thanks for your contributions.

    Ich fühle mich wie der Tod auf Latschen. – I feel (myself) like the death on slippers / worn-out shoes.

    You may know this good English idiom already, but my suggestion would be:
    “I feel like (or: as though) I’m at death’s door”

    Kind regards,

    Mark Bamforth