Today’s(September 25)Time magazine reports that:

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is feeling "fine" following a brief medical scare during an evening speech. Yellen was speaking at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst when she abruptly stopped her address due to dehydration, according to a spokesperson.

From Time.com.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the word, ‘medical scare.’ I don’t find it in English dictionaries at hand, nor its definition on google search.

Is it a physical symptom something like anemia or dizzy feeling? Is it a medical term? Is it a relatively new word? Apparently it should be different from ‘medical threat.’

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    It indeed means that she had some physical symptoms that caused concern. This may be fainting, nausea, racing heart, double vision, etc. And it's not a "word" -- it's two perfectly good words put together as a perfectly good pair, meaning exactly what they mean.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 25, 2015 at 12:07
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    If the ailment is personal or embarrassing saying that it was a medical scare or health scare instead of going into specific details about what was wrong can also give enough information so we know approximately what happened without violating the person's privacy.
    – aslum
    Sep 25, 2015 at 14:18
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    @curiousdannii. Please note that my being mod has nothing to do with this question. I’ve never considered “mod” as a license of anything. I think I know the basic meaning of the words, ‘medical” and “scare,” but had difficulty to imagine exact implication and degree of seriousness whether it’s unwell feeling or life-threatening when it combined. So I posted this question. You cannot come up to the correct understanding simply by associating two words as it’s difficult to come up to the notion of being “pregnant” by combining “up” and “pole.” Sep 26, 2015 at 2:27
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    @curiousdanni. You say tomato. I say potahto. Period. Sep 26, 2015 at 11:20
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    @curiousdannii: He's saying "be quiet". Sep 26, 2015 at 11:30

4 Answers 4


A medical scare can be anything where your health was suddenly in danger. It's when you thought that there could be something seriously wrong - could be something like an emergency, but could also be a serious illness. Often the idea behind it is that in the end, nothing major was really wrong. If you say, "I had a medical scare last year," the idea is that you felt ill and were investigated for medical problems.

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    It may also refer to a situation where your health was not in danger, but your perception of the health indicated a heightened risk. For example, a positive result in a screening test (where a further test reveals that no problem existed) or exposure to a dangerous infection such as HIV or Ebola, where further testing reveals that you were did not get infected during that exposure.
    – Peteris
    Sep 25, 2015 at 12:51
  • A simple example: Finding a shadow on a mammogram. If the lump turns out to be benign it's simply a scare. Sep 26, 2015 at 1:37

A more common expression (see Ngram) is health scare that can refer both to a public and a private, single medical episode.

Both health and medical scare refer to:

  • A situation characterized by alarm or anxiety about the risk of developing or being diagnosed with a particular illness or condition:
    • he caused an international health scare by travelling with a dangerous form of tuberculosis
    • she’s back in good spirits again after a recent health scare


From CNN.Com Fed Chair Yellen is 'fine' after brief health scare

  • An experienced user like yourself should know better than answer an obviously unresearched question like this, and should've voted to close it instead. Sep 26, 2015 at 1:32
  • &curious - you have to keep in mind that not all user in this site are native speakers or language experts. I added the reference part because it had not been linked in other questions and may be useful to users. Note that a literal translation of the expression is not of much help to non natives and 'medical scare' may also sound as a pun of 'medical care'. Yoichisan did the right thing and asked here.
    – user66974
    Sep 26, 2015 at 6:10
  • I do wish that, apart from making comments , you tried your hand at answering questions from time to time and give a more complete contribution to this site.
    – user66974
    Sep 26, 2015 at 6:13
  • When I find the 1% of questions that are worth answering, and they haven't been, then I answer them. Sep 26, 2015 at 6:32

I think the phrase means rather that there was a concern about one's health arising from a medical assessment or test, rather than a personal fear about a symptom. For instance, if a blood test turns up something that warrants a more extensive test, such as an x-ray or scan, to rule out, say, cancer, that would be a medical scare. It's a medical scare because it arises from interaction with the medical profession, as opposed to a health scare.

The period of not knowing whether you have cancer, from the blood test results to the scan, would be the medical scare. It's a scare because it frightened you, but it didn't turn out to be an actual health problem, which would have been very serious. Having dizziness or feeling ill wouldn't be a medical scare; that I think would be more like hypochondria, if you thought it was a portent of a more serious condition.

  • No "medical assessment or test" is required to have a "medical scare". If one feels a fluttering in the chest and interprets it as a heart attack, when it's really just an attack of "the nerves", that's still a "medical scare".
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 20, 2015 at 21:14

It's what it implies: a duration of time in which you or someone else was scared for medical reasons.

If you are undergoing a "health scare" or "medical scare", there is something amiss with yours or someone else's health which scares you.

This may be an individual's health or, more generally, reports of a new virus doing the rounds.

For example, if I wake up one morning with a fluttery heart, and take the day off to see a doctor, and he says I'm going to be okay but need to cut out red meat for three months, I've had a medical scare.

And if a strain of ebola suddenly breaks out in a handful of countries and kills thousands of people, causing borders to close and requiring pharmaceutical companies to drop what they're doing and rally together to find a cure, that's a medical scare.

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    Yeah, basically you take "medical" as an adjective and "scare" as a noun and concatenate the meanings.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 26, 2015 at 0:10
  • An experienced user like yourself should've flagged this question as insufficiently researched rather than answering it. Sep 26, 2015 at 1:32
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    @curiousdannii: I'll thank you not to tell me what to flag. A few points: (a) As "an experienced user", I'm apparently more aware than you that insufficient research is not any reason for a flag. A downvote maybe. (b) If you really feel that strongly about it, talk to the OP, a 26.9k user and a moderator. In fact I see that you have. You didn't get the admission of guilt you wanted, but that's no reason to now attack me instead. (c) Asking for the meaning of an idiom is quite common. One could say almost every question is dictionary-answerable. Then why are we here, pray tell? Sep 26, 2015 at 11:00
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit Insufficient research is in fact the first 'off-topic' close reason here. It's not really off-topic, but it is definitely a reason to flag here. And I don't consider this an attack, just a blunt suggestion that this community would be better off if we didn't answer bad questions. Sep 26, 2015 at 11:27
  • @curiousdannii: I really think you should find something better to do than to troll me. Sep 26, 2015 at 11:31

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