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Learn English Vocabulary for the Pharmacy


English at the Pharmacy

Getting sick is something that happens to everyone. With cold and flu season coming up in this lesson I am going to give you a complete English lesson about going to the pharmacy.

There are three reasons we might take medicine:

  1. when we think we need it
  2. a pharmacist the person who works at the pharmacy recommends something
  3. our doctor tells us we need to take medicine

When you go into a drugstore in Canada, you’ll notice it looks like a grocery store. Drugstores in Canada sell personal care items, makeup, food, books and more. There are even pharmacies inside grocery stores. 

You’ll usually find the pharmacy part at the back.

In front of the pharmacy, they’ll have lots of medicine in the aisles. This medicine is called over the counter or OTC. This means you can buy this medicine without the permission of a doctor. 

Some of the most popular types of OTC medicine are for pain relief like for a  headache or muscle pain. The common types are acetaminophen and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

There are also other types of OTC medicine:

  • Decongestants are used to treat cold symptoms
  • Cough syrup
  • Throat lozenge
  • Antihistamines
  • Nasal spray
  • Eye drops

Talking to the Pharmacist

If you’re not sure what to take you can go to the pharmacist for a recommendation.

You could say:

“Hi I’d like your help, I have a cold and I’d like to take something.”

They might say: “How long have you felt this way?” or “Do you have any drug allergies?”

Pharmacists also keep some medicine behind the counter. This means you can only have it. These are usually stronger pain killers.

Prescriptions From a Doctor

If you visit the doctor and they believe you need to take some medicine they will write you a prescription or write you a script for short. They’ll give you a piece of paper and you need to go to a pharmacy to have your prescription filled. 

When you do this you take it to the back of the drugstore where the pharmacy, you will see two signs, drop off and pick up. You want to drop off your prescription so you will go there and say, “Hi I’d like to have this prescription filled.”

They will say “Okay do you have some ID?”

You’ll need a piece of identification with your name on it.

Then they’ll say “Your prescription will be ready in 30 mins”.

When you come back the pharmacist might want to talk to you about the medication. 

They might ask if you. “Are you taking any medication?”

The pharmacist is going to tell you how to take the medicine.

Some common instructions are

  • Do not take the medicine on an empty stomach. This means you need to take the medicine with food.
  • Take two tablets every 12 hours.
  • Take the entire course of the prescription (course of medicine means all the medicine in the bottle)
  • Don’t use machinery or drive when taking this medicine.

They will print the instructions on how to take the medicine and stick in on the bottle.

The medicine you get might come in different forms:

    • Tablets or pills
    • Capsules
    • Injection with a syringe
    • Inhaler
    • Drops
    • Topical medicines

Then you will need to pay for the medicine. Many people have a drug plan from their employer or their educational institution like a college or university.

Depending on the plan you have you will either have to pay the full amount of the prescription and then submit the receipt to your insurer to be reimbursed, to get the money back,

Or you will have to present a pay-direct drug card to the pharmacist and they will automatically apply a discount. 

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