Health dictionary - S


Saline

A mixture of water and salt, which is used to replace body fluids.

Saliva

The fluids that flows into your mouth from your salivary glands and the mucous membrane inside your mouth. It makes swallowing easier as it makes the food mushy.

Scab

A crust that forms on your skin or a mucous membrane if you’ve been injured. It’s made up of clotted blood and pus.

Scapula

The medical name for your shoulder blade.

Scar

A mark that’s left on your skin after an injury.

Sclerotherapy

A method of shrivelling up blood vessels by injecting a medicine.

-scopy

A test that let the doctor look at part of your body. There are lots of different types of test, like a gastroscopy which involves your stomach and a cystoscopy which involves your bladder.

Scrotum

The scrotum is part of the male genitals. It is a soft muscular pouch that sits underneath the penis. It holds the testicles, which are two small sacs that produce and hold sperm and hormones.

Sedation

A way of making you very sleepy, usually before and during a test or procedure.

Seizure

Seizures can seem very frightening, both for your and your friends and family. They make some people shake a lot and others stay very still. Your brain is a lot like a computer - it has lots of electricity flowing through it. Sometimes there's too much power and everything short-circuits - that's what happens when you have a seizure.

Sepsis

Infection of a wound by bacteria, which leads to pus forming.

Shock

When you’re in shock, the amount of blood flowing around your body drops suddenly which can make you unconscious. It usually happens after severe illness or injury.

Shunt

A passage created to drain liquid from one part of the body to another. Shunts are used to treat a condition called hydrocephalus where there is too much fluid around the brain.

Sibling

Another word for your brother or sister.

Skeleton

Our skeleton is what keeps us all in one piece – it's a bit like scaffolding. It's made up of over 200 bones, which range in size from the tiny bones in our ear, to large bones like our thighbones.

Small bowel

This is part of your intestines and is about six metres long! It's all coiled up inside your abdomen. The small bowel's job is to remove the goodness from your food so that it can be absorbed by your body.

Sneezing

When you want to sneeze, nothing will stop it! It’s a response to something irritating your nose or airway.

Snoring

If you breathe very noisily when you’re asleep, this is called snoring.

Spasm

This is when one of your muscles contracts (squeezes) suddenly. Some types of spasms include hiccups and cramps.

Sphincter

A ring of muscle at the entrance or exit of an organ. There’s a sphincter at the top of your stomach, which stops what you’ve eaten flowing back up your foodpipe.

Spinal cord

This is part of your central nervous system. Your spinal cord is about 45cm long and about as thick as your finger. Messages to and from your brain travel down the cord before being passed on to other parts of your body.

Spleen

Your spleen is where red blood cells that are worn out and destroyed. It’s also part of your immune system.

Splint

A method of keeping part of your body in one place while it heals. For instance, if you break a finger, it may be splinted to the next finger to keep it in one place so you can’t bend it until it heals.

Sprain

If you ‘go over’ on your ankle, you could sprain it. This means you’ve torn or stretched the ligaments that hold the joint together. A sprain is very painful and will probably swell up a lot. You should put ice on the area to reduce the swelling and rest it until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Sputum

Mucus that is coughed up from your windpipe. It’s also called phlegm. If your sputum is yellow or green this could mean you have an infection.

Stem cells

These are cells found within the body that do not have a set purpose. Most other cells have a task that their body needs them to do. Stem cells are thought to have lots of potential in helping people to recover from illness but scientists are still perfecting how this may happen.

Stoma

This is an opening that is created in a patient’s side so that waste which cannot be removed naturally (either through the colon or by the kidneys) can be expelled.

Stomach

This is a bag of muscle under your ribcage, where food and drink is digested. It's full of really strong acid that turns your food and drink into a mushy liquid so that the goodness in it can be taken out.

Subcutaneous

A type of injection that is given under the skin.

Suppository

Some medicines can’t be swallowed and need to be absorbed into the body another way. Suppositories are put up your bottom where they dissolve and are absorbed through the blood vessels in your rectum.

Suture

Another word for stitch. After an operation, the surgeon will stitch up the wound to let it heal properly. The stitches are called sutures.

Symptom

A sign of a disease or condition that the patient notices and reports to a doctor.

Syndrome

A collection of symptoms.