Flaring up and bouncing back: phrasal verbs relating to illness

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by Kate Woodford

A recent blog that we published on phrasal verbs meaning ‘argue’ was very popular, reminding us to keep providing you with useful sets of these important items! This week, then, we’re looking at phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs connected with illness and recovery.

Starting with becoming ill, if you begin to feel ill with a cold, the flu, etc. you can say that you come down with it or go down with it: I hope you’re not coming down with a cold. / Three members of staff have gone down with flu. If you catch an illness from someone or something, caused by a virus or bacteria, you pick it up: He picked up a stomach bug in the first week of school. If a lot of people are suffering from an infectious illness at the same time, you can talk about the illness going around/round: There are a lot of bugs going round at the moment.

If an illness or medical problem suddenly gets worse, we say it flares up: She gets a lot of knee pain and it flares up in winter. If you suddenly get spots or a rash on your skin, we say you break out in it. (In UK English, we also use the phrase come out in): He broke out in a rash after eating strawberries. / I come out in spots if I eat too much dairy. If you have a bad fever, you are said informally to be burning up: You need to get that temperature down. You’re burning up! If someone becomes unconscious for a short time, they are said to pass out: He passed out in the heat. When you give someone a measured amount of medicine you can say informally that you dose them up: I thought I was coming down with a cold so I dosed myself up with vitamin C.

Let’s finish on a positive note! If you manage not to become ill with an infectious illness, you fight it off: Her strong immune system seems to fight off any infection. When you become well again after an illness, we say that you get over it: He’s just getting over a nasty cold. If someone becomes completely well after an illness, we may emphasize how well they recover by saying that they bounce back: Children generally bounce back from illness. If an illness or medical problem ends, it clears up: The rash should clear up within two or three days.

We very much hope you don’t have to use any of the phrases in this post for a while!

13 thoughts on “Flaring up and bouncing back: phrasal verbs relating to illness

  1. F Hossain

    I was struggling to express these ideas. Now things are more clearer to me. Thank you for such an excellent post. Your last several posts on idioms were also just fantastic.

  2. Zabihullah Majidzada

    Thank you so much for explaining these phrasal verbs. I found them very useful. Where can I find a list of them in pdf format?
    I am looking forward for your new posts.


  3. Arturo Leo

    Very usefull expresions, thanks for allowing us to properly use them, after understanding their real meaning and proper use.

  4. Use the phrases to write a short paragraph. Thank you for the informative article.

    My kid has come down with an enterovirus. His mouth broke out in sores, which seemed to be extremely painful even though he didn’t burn up with a fever. We have dosed him up with syrup to fight off the pain. Most of the time, a bug clears up in three days and he bounces back. However, he is still sick after 7 days though his condition has continued to improve over the last week.
    We know infection builds up children’s immune systems but still hope that he can get over illness faster.

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