Sick and Confused In France
When we first arrived in France, the challenge and newness of figuring out how to navigate our new lives was exciting and fun.
Then my husband got sick. “Bed ridden, antibiotic needing sick” and it wasn’t fun any more…
We had so many questions!
- Do we go to a hospital?
- Do we call a doctor and make an appointment or just walk in?
- How do we find a doctor?
We eventually figured it all out but we had to do it the hard way.
With that in mind, here are several ways to deal with sick people while travelling in France.
*Note this is not a guide for medical emergencies or about how to use your medical insurance in France. It’s simply how to find a doctor for non emergency cases where you are sick.
Start At The Pharmacist, Not The Doctor
Unless you’re bleeding from your eyeballs or mortally wounded, you may want to start at the pharmacist / chemist.
Going to a pharmacist will be quicker, cheaper and easier than trying to find a doctor and making an appointment because “les Pharmacie” seem to be everywhere in France.
Just look for the green signs that say <<Pharmacie>> . Sometimes the signs are blinking green crosses like in the photo above.
Are Pharmacists/ chemists qualified?
Yes, Pharmacists in France have years of extensive training on par with many doctors. They are qualified to diagnose and give out general medical advice beyond what a pharmacist in the US or Canada is qualified to do.
For example, pharmacists can diagnose mushroom poisoning and even help you identify if those wild Mushrooms you picked in the forest are poisonous or not.
Finding A Doctor In France: Here Are 5 Options
If you have something more serious or if the pharmacist can’t diagnose you than by all means go see a doctor.
Here are five ways you might want to try based on your level of comfort and access.
1- Concierge: If you are staying in a hotel, you could just ask the concierge for recommended doctors.
But what if you don’t have access to a concierge? (We don’t. We live in a house. )
2- Tourism Office: Find the nearest tourist office and ask them for a list of doctors.
3- Ask someone: Ask a neighbour, a pharmacist or even a stranger as you are walking down the street. You can even try asking small shop owners along the road. People are more helpful than you realize.
4-Embassy: Call your nearest embassy or check their website to see if they have a list of doctors. (sometimes they have them listed by ability to speak English but not always).
5- The Yellow Pages: Finally, you could do what a lot of French people do which is probably the best way to find a doctor.
Consult the Yellow pages called “Pages Jaunes”.
How To Find A Doctor Quickly Using The Yellow Pages ( Pages Jaunes)
Go To: http://www.pagesjaunes.fr
Enter what you are looking for.
First, enter “Médecin” = (doctor) in the field labeled “Quo, qui?” (who, whot.)
Second, enter the name of the French City where you want to find a doctor. Even better, enter your starting address to get a list of doctors closest to that address.
In my screenshot above, I entered 100 rue Doumet, La Garde. Don’t forget to check mark the box labeled “Recherche à proximité” which means search for the nearest address.
Hit the search button and your next screen will ask you what type of doctor you want.
Enter The Type of Doctor You Need
If you want a general practitioner than select “medecins generalistes”.
If you want another type, just choose from the list and hit the search button again.
Locate a few doctors on the map.
Next, you’ll get a map of all the doctors near your address. Just click on one and a box will pop up with the doctors address. Click on the details button to get the doctors phone number.
How To Make An Appointment
The doctor’s clinic is called “le cabinet” not « les cabinets » which means the toilets.
If you speak a little French, go ahead and call the doctors and see if you can set an appointment.
If you don’t speak French, you may want to walk to the doctors office and try to set one. It’s easier to communicate in person if you are not fluent in French.
Not all doctors take appointments
Believe it or not, we’ve seen 3 different doctors in France and none of them require an appointment.
We just walk in, sometimes we ring a bell and someone lets us in. Then we sit down in the waiting room and wait for someone to come in and ask “who is next?”.
When it is your turn, you just go on in to see the doctor. .
How Much Will It Cost
In general and at the time of this writing (2013), A General Practitioners consultation fee is around 23€. Many doctors accept credit cards but…. not all do.
Gynecologists can charge up to 60€.
Getting A Prescription Filled
If the doctor gives you a prescription for some medication, just take it to any pharmacist / chemist (as explained above).
Essential French Vocabulary
According to our doctor, as part of a doctors medical training, they have to take some medical classes in English but.. please don’t expect them to speak fluently.
Another option is to use Google translate to translate your symptoms. Write them down or print them out and hand them to the doctor. You would be surprised how many times my husband has done this for different situations.
Here are some general terms for you to know.
- Doctor: un médecin–> [uhn med-sanne]
- Medecine: médicament—> [may-dee-ca-mon])
- Sick: malade –> [ma-lad]
- Pharmacist / Chemist : Une pharmacie –> [oon farm-assee]
- It hurts here: J’ai très mal ici –> [zhay tray mall eesee]
- We need to find a doctor urgently. Nous avons besoin de voir un médecin au plus vite. C’est urgent.
- I need to make an appointment with the docter: Je voudrais prendre un rendez-vous avec le médecin.
Getting sick in France or anywhere while travelling is always going to be a little stressful. Try to do a little research before you go on how to find a doctor in the country you are visiting because you just never know..
Good luck and stay healthy.
Question: Have you ever been sick while travelling or living abroad? Leave your comments below.