How to Ask Someone About Their Health Condition

While asking about someone’s health conditions, you are expected to be very careful as health is a very sensitive issue. No one wants to offend a person while asking about his or her general health condition or any specific illness or injury. However, if you don’t know the appropriate expressions or phrases to ask about someone’s health conditions, you may unknowingly hurt their emotions.

In my ESL classroom, especially in the Spoken English course, I conduct different drills and role-plays on various everyday issues. During the role-plays on “Health & Fitness,” many of my students use “How are you?” to ask someone about their health condition. Is this correct, or are there any other appropriate phrases or expressions? Let’s explore.

“How is everything about your health” is an appropriate expression to ask about someone’s overall health condition. Besides, you may specifically ask about someone’s current health issues mentioning their specific illnesses or any injuries. Remember, while talking about someone’s health, be respectful and empathetic by acknowledging their emotions.

Here, I’ve come up with several phrases and expressions that native speakers of English use to ask people about their health conditions. These expressions will help you to start talking to someone about their health issues without offending or making them feel uncomfortable.

Table of Contents

Does “How are you?” Make Sense while Asking about Health Issues?

Many ESL/EFL learners mistakenly use “How are you?” to ask about someone’s health, but it doesn’t necessarily mean to ask about someone’s health. “How are you?” can be used as equivalent to “Hi” or “Hello” as part of socialization. It’s a formal way of greeting people expecting a response such as “I’m fine,” “I’m good,” etc.

If you’re very close to someone and care for their health, it’s better to ask directly about their health condition. You can say, for instance, “Are you feeling okay?” if it seems to you that the person is feeling unwell. If you know that someone is in physical pain, you can ask, “Where does it hurt?” And if you meet someone who’s recently recovered from a disease, you can say, “Do you feel better now?”

How to Ask about General Health Conditions

Asking about health condition

On different occasions, we need to ask people about their overall health condition. The most common expressions of this kind are presented in the table below.

How is everything about your health?  The most appropriate general expression to ask someone about their health condition.
How are things?  A general inquiry about someone’s health and life.
How have you been?  A common expression to ask about health and life in general.  
Is everything okay?  A “Yes/No” question can be asked to know about someone’s overall health condition and life at large.  
How have you been keeping?  A formal but sincere and friendly expression to be used for talking about someone’s health.  
Are you feeling okay?A caring expression you can use to ask when someone looks tired, sad, or unwell.
Are you in good shape?A common expression that is generally used to ask someone about their health condition.
The table shows some English expressions to ask about general health conditions.

Guide to Asking about Illness or Injury

Asking about health condition

In our daily lives, we need to deal with different unexpected situations. Accidents are one such situation. Let’s find some expressions for asking people about their specific illness or injury.

How are you feeling?The most common and appropriate expression that we use when we know that someone is ill and they’re under treatment or process of recovering from illness.
Are you sick?Similar to the expression, “Are you feeling okay?” If you notice anything unusual (coughing, red eyes, tired) in someone, you can use this expression. 
Do you have a cold?When there are visible symptoms like runny or stuffy nose, cough, sneeze, etc., you can ask if someone has a cold.
Are you okay?If there is an accident or anything unusual happens to someone, we can ask this way. To talk about illness, it is also okay to use this expression as well. 
Are you hurt?

Are you injured?

Are you bleeding?
Similarly, if there is an accident or anything of this kind, you can specifically ask someone if they are injured or hurt or bleeding instead of asking, “Are you okay?”     
Are you feeling better?

Are you feeling any better?

Are you in good shape now?”
A similar expression to “How are you feeling?” It is used to ask health condition of someone who very recently went through a process of recovery from illness.  
The table shows some English expressions to ask about someone’s illness or injury.

How to Ask about Mental Health Conditions

Asking about health condition

If your close friends or family members seem down or anxious, they need your support. Sometimes they may feel awkward sharing their problems if not asked with care. If you can ask them about their mental health in a way that they don’t feel uncomfortable sharing, only then can you help them.

Here, I am putting a list of expressions that you can use to ask your friends or family members about the problems that are affecting their mental health.

  • How have you been?
  • How are you doing?
  • Is there anything you want to talk about?
  • How is your stress level lately?
  • Are you okay?
  • May I help you with anything?
  • Would you like to share anything with me?
  • Is everything all right?
  • Is there anything I can do for you to get through this?
  • Do you like to have things differently?

Things to Consider While Talking about Someone’s Health Condition

Whether you ask someone about their physical or mental health condition, keep in mind the following things.    

  • While asking someone about their health condition, make sure your choice of words is appropriate, and you maintain a worried and empathetic voice tone. If you sound cold or uncaring, you may not get to know the actual condition of the person’s health. Use positive gestures so that they understand that you are listening to them and feeling empathized. Your body language may include the following:
    • An upright posture—no matter whether you are sitting or standing
    • Compassionate eye contact
    • Responses through nodding your head occasionally
  • Stay calm and don’t react too much if they share anything very worrying. If you respond negatively, that may cause more stress, and the situation may worsen. So, listen to them attentively and encourage them to share their real problems without interrupting them.
  • Don’t push them to share everything at a time. Let them share what they want.  
  • Don’t be overprotective, and never offer too much advice.
  • Give them a feeling that you are thankful that they have talked to you about what they are going through.
  • Ensure that you will respect their privacy and do not share anything with anyone if they don’t want to.

A Sample Conversation on Asking Someone About Their Health Condition

The following is a conversation between Brenda and Lia in which they talk about their health conditions.

Brenda: Hi, Lia! I’m seeing you after a long time. How are things?

Lia: Hey, Brenda. I’m doing good. How about you?

Brenda: I’m doing great. But you look a bit out of sorts. Is everything okay?

Lia: Mmm…. you’re right. Things haven’t been right lately. My mom’s been sick since last month. 

Brenda: What happened? Is she in good shape?

Lia: She’s been wheezing repetitively. Her body’s aching, and it’s making her exhausted. 

Brenda: Have you taken her to the doctor? 

Lia: I have. We’re getting the test reports tomorrow. And it’s stressing me out whether it’s something really bad.

Brenda: Don’t worry. How’s your mom been keeping up after the check-up? 

Lia: A little better. She’s taking the meds the doctor prescribed her. 

Brenda: Good. You better take good care of her. 

Lia: I’m trying my best. 

Brenda: Don’t stress out. Is there anything I can do for you to get through this? 

Lia: That’s so kind of you, Brenda. But I’ll be fine. 

Brenda: Alright. Let me know what the reports say. I might visit your mom tomorrow. Is that alright?

Lia: That would be so nice. Mom will be happy to see you. 

Takeaway Words

Out of sort (an expression) = looking sick, troubled, depressed, tensed, etc. 

Wheeze (verb) = to make a whistling noise in the chest while breathing due to cough or nasal congestion 

Exhausted (adjective) = reaching the limit of physical or mental strength 

Meds (noun) = informal way to say medicines 

Stress out (verb) = to feel highly nervous and tensed 

In Conclusion

So, we discussed different types of questions that address various situations like general health conditions, illness, injury, and recovery. I believe you can be a good support to those who are going through a tough time both physically and mentally, as now you know how to ask people about their health conditions.

Thanks for reading.

Happy learning.

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 7 years of experience in teaching & developing resources at different universities and institutes. Mr. Khan is also a passionate writer working on his first book, "Learn English at Ease."

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