Health Literacy Thesaurus: Medical terms, phrases, references,
and their Plain English equivalents or definitions

A (abdomen - avoid)

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abdomenstomach, stomach area, belly, tummy
abilityskill
abolishend, do away with, get rid of
abrasioncut, scratch, scrape
absenteeismmissing work or school
absorptiontake in, soak up
acceleratehurry, speed up, make worse, make more severe
accessibleavailable, on hand, understandable, usable (handicapped)
accommodatehouse, let stay with, give shelter, adjust, adapt
accompanygo with, take with (medicine)
accomplishdo, finish
accumulateadd up, gather, collect
accuratetrue, right, correct
acellular vaccinea vaccine that only contains part of the virus
Acquired Immune Deficiency SyndromeAIDS; a disease that makes it hard for your body to fight diseases
active immunitybeing able to fight off a specific disease once you have had that disease
acutesudden start, short term, quick
additionalextra, added, more
adequateenough, the right amount
adherestick, follow
adjacentbeside, next to, near, touching
adjuvantsomething added to a vaccine to make it work better
administergive, manage, take care of
adverseevent something bad that happens, bad reaction
adverse health effectbad side effect, bad reaction
adversebad, dangerous, hurtful, harmful
advisetell, warn, say
advocacysupport, fighting on behalf of, arguing for support
advocatefight for, support, support person
aerobic exerciseexercise; slow and steady exercise like walking, running, biking, swimming, etc.; exercise that helps your heart stay healthy and work better; exercise that gets your heart pumping; exercise that makes you breath faster
aerobicneeds oxygen
aerosolspray, mist
aggravatemake worse, harm, anger, hurt
aggregatetaken together, looked at all together, total, sum, combined
aggressivepushy, dangerous, gets worse fast
airwayswindpipe, breathing, tubes that take air in from the nose and mouth to the lungs, pathway from nose and mouth to lungs
alienatepush away, put by itself, turn away from, set apart
allergensomething like pollen that causes the body to react by sneezing or forming a rash
allergicthe body’s reaction to something, like pollen, resulting in sneezing, sniffling, a rash, etc.
allergistdoctor who treats allergies
allergyreaction to certain things such as food or cloth or pollen, itch, rash, hives, breathing problem
alleviatelessen, ease, soften, improve, make better
alopeciahair loss, balding
alterationchange, shift, adjustment
alternatetake turns, one and then the other, rotate
alternativeoption, another choice, other, different way, another option, different
alveolitiny air sacs in the lungs
amalgamateput together, join, combine, unite
ambulatewalk, move around
ambulatorycan walk, mobile, able to move about, walking
amelioratemake better, improve, lessen, ease
amendchange, change later on, adjust
amnesiaforgetfulness, memory loss, not being able to remember
anaerobic exerciseexercise, fast-burst exercise, muscle-building exercise like weight lifting
anaerobicneeds lack of oxygen
anaphylaxisshock, a sudden and severe allergic reaction, stop breathing, poisoning
anemiatired, low iron, a low blood count that can make you tired and short of breath
annualyearly, every year, once every year, once a year, each year
annuallyyearly, every year, once every year, once a year, each year
antibioticdrug, medicine, drug that fights bacteria, infection fighting medicine, medicine that fights infection
antibodyyour body’s way to fight off infections, infection fighting cells, cells that fight infection
antigengerm, bacteria, virus, poison, something in your body that your body tries to fight off, something that helps your body fight disease
anti-inflammatorya drug to reduce swelling, something that reduces swelling and pain, aspirin, cortisone, a drug that brings down the swelling
antiphospholipid antibody testa test to see if you’re at risk for blood clots
antiviralmedicine, drug that fights viruses
anti-virus medicinemedicine, drug that fight viruses like the flu
anxietyfear, worry
appellantname, name of the person, you, person making an appeal
applicantyour name, name of the person, person who is applying
applyuse, put on, rub onto, sign up for
appreciatethank, be grateful
appropriatetake, take over, a good fit, proper, right
approximateabout, guess, around, near, close
aptitudeability, skill, gift, talent
arguablymaybe, perhaps, possibly, could be
arthralgiapain, pain in your joints
arthritispain in joints; disease of the joints that causes swelling, pain, heat, and a sense of stiffness
ascertainfind, find out, learn, make certain
asphyxiatechoke, smother, suffocate
assessreview, sum up, evaluate, to determine value
assisthelp, aid
associationgroup, relation, organization
asthmadisease, breathing disease; long term disease of swelling of the airways of the lungs; lung disease where you have trouble breathing; disease of lungs or respiratory system
asymptomatic infectionwhen you’re sick, but you don’t feel bad, no symptoms
asymptomaticsomeone who is sick but does not feel or look sick
at the present timenow, right now
atherosclerosishardening of the arteries, clogged blood vessels
attackviolent start, suddenly overcome by a disease, begin to harm
attempttry, effort
attenuated vaccinevaccine, vaccine that has a weakened form of the virus in it
attireclothes, clothing, to dress, wear
authenticoriginal, real, true, actual
authorizeallow, approve, give the power to
autismbrain disorder, illness that makes it hard for someone to talk to other people
autoimmune diseasedisease that makes your body attack itself
autonomousfree, by itself, independent
availhelp, aid
availableon hand, at hand, ready, near-by, handy
avian flubird flu
avoiddo not

Source: CDC Plain Language Thesaurus for Health Communications. Other related materials: Vaccines & Immunizations Glossary; Harvard School of Public Health "Plain Language Glossaries" for asthma, arthritis, and lupus; Medical Library Association "Deciphering Medspeak" for diabetes, stroke, and HIV-AIDS


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