Learning Norwegian For Members

Coughs, colds and flu: What to say and do if you fall sick in Norway

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Coughs, colds and flu: What to say and do if you fall sick in Norway
Pictured is a man blowing his nose. Photo by Brittany Colette on Unsplash

It's the season when the horrible bugs strike and have us all spluttering into a tissue, so here's the vocab you need to deal with coughs, colds and flu in Norway.


It's not pleasant, but as the temperatures fall, many people will be falling victim to traditional winter illnesses, from a slight cold to a nasty dose of the flu. So if you are feeling poorly, here's the Norwegian words you need to get help.

En forkjølelse - a cold. To announce you have a cold you can say: jeg er forkjølet. 

If you have a basic winter cold, there are lots of medicines available in pharmacies that don't require a prescription, and that should be able to help you through the worst of it. They include nesedråper (nose drops), nesespray (nasal spray) if you've got a blocked nose, and halspastiller (throat tablets) or halsspray (throat spray) if you've got a sore throat. 


Hoste - a cough. If you have one of these, you may want some hostesaft (cough syrup), which you can get from a pharmacy. Unlike in English, you don't use the article when saying you have a cough. Instead, you say Jeg har hoste (literally: I have cough). However, it is unusual not to use an adjective when describing the cough in question. For example, Jeg har stygg hoste (I have a bad cough) would be far more natural. 

Pharmacists do extensive medical training to provide consultations and advice on a range of minor illnesses.

If you're buying cough medicine, you will probably be asked if you have a tørrhoste (dry cough) or a slimhoste (wet or productive cough) in addition to being asked whether it is alvorlig (severe) or kronisk (long-lasting).

En feber - A fever. If your illness is a little more severe and you are running a temperature, this is the word you want. Again, your pharmacist can give you over-the-counter medication for this or could advise you to consult a doctor if they consider it more severe.

Paracet - this is the most common brand name for Paracetamol in Norway and can be bought without a prescription from all pharmacies if you need a painkiller or something to help a fever. However, it's so ubiquitous that people generally prefer to simply say Paracet rather than paracetamol. 


Resept – prescription. Not to be confused with the English word receipt, which is kvittering in Norwegian. You'll need one from a doctor to receive prescription medication. One question you may be asked when being issued a prescription is Er du allergisk mot noen medisiner? – are you allergic to any medicines? 

Symptomer – symptoms. Symptomer is the plural of symptoms in Norwegian, and you'll be asked about this when seeing a doctor or speaking to a pharmacist. 

Legekontor- Doctors office. If your symptoms don't clear or the pharmacy deems them too severe for over-the-counter medication, you may be asked to head to your local doctor's office for an appointment. 

Legetime – doctor's appointment. This most literally means "doctor's hour" but more accurately translates to a doctor's appointment. The current GP scheme in Norway allows everyone to choose their own doctor, who acts as patients' main point of contact with the health service. Your GP is also responsible for your primary medical needs, and you are allowed to change your doctor twice a year.

Influensa - The flu. Flu season affects thousands of people yearly in Norway, and if you're in an at-risk group, it's a good idea to get your flu vaccine (full details of how to access it here).



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