Survive the Spanish Pharmacy & Health Center Visit

Okay, so you get the flu and you need to run to the pharmacy because ain’t nobody got time to be sick… Twice.

Feel my suffering…

If you are anything like a Finnish person, you like to avoid the pharmacist (who is there to help you) and you try to find the things you need yourself lurking between the shelves and reading labels, hoping none is looking. Well in Spain you can’t.

Most of the meds are often behind the pharmacist and you can’t reach them yourself. What you need to do is know exactly what you are looking for. The names of the drugs are not that different in Spain. Aspirin is aspirin and paracetamol is paracetamol.

However, if you need specific meds and you don’t know their name, google them and translate if you can. You can also show them pictures, they probably know what you are talking about and they are very helpful.

Don’t panic if you don’t know the name of the drug or it’s new to you (if it’s local), they are usually pretty amazing. This might be also because you can get more efficient (and stronger) medicaments from the pharmacy without a recipe than in most countries, but this does not mean they are necessarily better somehow. There is however this one thing I always buy and take back to Finland because it works wonders:

Fluimucil Complex

This contains 500mg of paracetamol and 200mg acetylcysteine, and it’s an effervescent tablet that you can drink with water. It acts quite quickly and helps with pain and fever. It also helps to get the mucus out, so all and all it’s a very good drug for general flu.

And once again, it is good to know some Spanish:

  • I have a flu = Tengo un gripe
  • My head is hurting = Tengo un dolor de cabeza
  • I have a migraine (probably a recipe drug but you never know) = Tengo las migrañas
  • My throat hurts = Me duele la garganta
  • I have a dry cough and slime in my lungs = Tengo un tos seca con mucosidad
  • I can’t breathe because my nose is blocked = No puedo respirar porque tengo la nariz tapada
  • I’m allergic to pollen = Tengo alergia al polen
  • I need a cough syrup = Necesito un jarabe para el tos
  • Do you have some aspirin? = Tenéis aspirina?
  • Please = Por favor
  • Thank you = Gracias
  • Pill = Pastilla
  • Oral solution = solución oral

I think with this list you can get almost anything, at least for a flu. If you need something else, like I said google it and make yourself a list before you go to the nearest pharmacy. If it’s something that needs more treatment, go see a doctor (more on that below).

Is it cheap to buy medicine in Spain?

I think the prices are pretty much the same as in Finland. Probably some products are still cheaper, especially if they local. One pack of Fluimucil Complex is around 8,00 euros. Aspirin few euros and cough syrup around 9,00 euros. BUT: The price is at least 90% cheaper if you have a recipe!

Also it’s very easy to spot a pharmacy (farmacia), at least in a big city like Madrid. They are usually open until 21.30 or later but you better check before hitting the streets. There are also some 24/7 places.

I tried to survive with these

So the flu got worse & you really need a doctor!

Well first of all you need time. Reserve at least 3 hours to your first visit. NOT JOKING. Start with finding your own health center with your address

Entrance to my local health center on the right

Then take your European Health Card and a passport with you. I only had my driver license because I don’t carry my passport around with me but they accepted it.

Remember my other post about this topic?

When you arrive to your local health center (centro de salud), you need to fill in a temporary registration (if you stay for over 3 months, you need a different one) form called “Desplazado temporal europeo.” They will help you with this but it’s still probably taking 30min to fill, especially if none speaks the same language.

The residents here have their own health card which I could apply if I lived here longer.

That’s why I want to share this, I have crossed over my national identification number and over my European Health card number. If you know your basic information, address and phone number you will eventually get this. Mine is valid until 28.2.2019 but they store my information 3 years (if I understood everything). When you have this form, keep it with you every time you visit the health center.

After having it was 17.15pm and I finally had the privilege to bore out of my mind in the waiting area. I saw my doctor an hour later who called me by my name, or well she tried at least. 😀

She was very nice, and amused that a Finnish person has come to Spain to get such a horrible flu that she needs antibiotics (which I usually never eat!) to get over it. She wrote me a few recipes and I left by saying thank you. None charged me nothing.

Overall my experience was way better than attending public health services in Finland and I don’t think it’s just because I speak Spanish. People are more helpful and I happen to know that medical treatment is pretty good in Spain. Like all countries it has its problems but when you have universal health care AND you are a EU citizen you can’t complain (well you can but you are stupid).

The pharmacy charged me around 2.40€ for my medicaments. I couldn’t believe it! So like I said, get a recipe if you can.

I hope this helps future exchange students and other travellers.

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