Understanding coronavirus and Parkinson’s

Current advice for people with Parkinson’s is to stay at home, wherever you are in the UK. Changes in guidance for people in England are for people who have no health conditions.

This page was originally published on 3 March 2020, and was updated on 21 May 2020 at 5:35pm. This advice is updated as new information becomes available.

Our in-person events and activities are currently suspended and under regular review in-line with guidance throughout the UK. For updates on specific activities, please view the relevant pages on the website.

We're here for you

We have a range of information and support to help you during this challenging time. Our friendly helpline advisers are also available to take your call if you have any concerns, questions, or need further advice.

Parkinson's and coronavirus (COVID-19)

I have Parkinson’s - am I more at risk of coronavirus and what precautions should I take?

Some groups of people have an increased risk of severe illness if they get coronavirus. These people are described as clinically vulnerable and include everyone over 70, people who are pregnant, and people with certain conditions. The conditions include Parkinson’s.

Guidance for people with Parkinson’s, wherever you are in the UK is to stay at home.

Why do people with Parkinson's have an increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new illness. So we don’t yet have accurate information about it and Parkinson’s. But we do know that people with Parkinson’s are more prone to pneumonia and infections.

Parkinson’s can cause respiratory issues for some people. If you have advanced Parkinson’s or have lived with the condition for a long time, you’re more likely to have breathing and respiratory difficulties. Coronavirus affects your lungs and airways. This is why people with Parkinson's are described as being at greater risk of severe illness if they get coronavirus. 

I live with someone with Parkinson’s - what should I do?

If you’re caring for someone with Parkinson’s, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and to reduce their risk. Ensure you follow advice including the following:

  • Stay at home as much as possible.
  • Work from home if you can.
  • Limit contact with other people.
  • Keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible).
  • Wash your hands and clothes regularly.
  • Find out about different sources of support that could be used and access further advice on creating a contingency plan available from Carers UK.
  • Look after your own wellbeing and physical health during this time. Further information on this is available on our website.

Self-isolate if you, or anyone, in your household has symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) affects your lungs and airways. Normally, it starts with a fever and dry cough which can lead to a shortness of breath.

Be alert for the following symptoms

  • a high temperature – over 37.8 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, check if you feel hot to touch on your chest or back.
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing repeatedly for a long period.
  • sudden loss of smell or taste.

If you, or someone you live with, experiences these symptoms follow NHS guidance on how long you should stay at home and self isolate.

How might coronavirus affect Parkinson’s medication?

If you do become unwell with a virus of any kind, it’s important to keep taking the medication prescribed to you for Parkinson’s.

Our Clinical Director, Dr Donald Grosset, advises: “You should not suddenly stop taking your prescribed medication for Parkinson’s, as that can cause additional problems. However, missing a small number of doses – because of vomiting, for example – will not cause you harm.

“Follow the advice given to you by your health professional who might adjust your tablets or dose, depending on your condition.”

I volunteer with people with Parkinson’s, what should I do?

We have a detailed article relating to volunteering during the outbreak on our volunteer portal, Assemble. If you’re a volunteer and haven’t yet joined us on Assemble this guide shows you how to log in for the first time.

We know that support and friendship from group activities is important. We’re working with our volunteers and local networks to keep people connected. 

What should I do?

Following the briefings from governments in devolved countries, and from the UK government, guidance for people in Wales and Scotland, and Northern Ireland remains to stay at home.

Guidance updates are for the general public who are fit and well. We’ve taken time to read through the guidance and understand that for people who are clinically vulnerable, people with Parkinson’s, there is no significant change.

Chief Medical Officer to the UK Government, Chris Witty said on 11 May, “It is important that people continue to maintain either the shielding if they are in the very, very high risk group; or take even more caution than the general public if they are in the vulnerable group, because although the risk of the virus has gone down in the community, it is still significantly out there. Therefore, I do not think this would be the time to start revisiting those bits of advice.”

Stay at home

You should stay at home as much as possible. When you leave the house, for any reason, you should avoid busy spaces and keep a distance of around 2 metres (6 feet) between you and other people. Reasons you may leave your home include:

  • for work, where you cannot work from home
  • going to shops that are permitted to be open - to get things like food and medicine
  • to exercise (exercise in Scotland and Wales must be close to home)
  • to spend social time outdoors (England and Northern Ireland only)
  • drive-through church services can be held and churches can open for private prayer (Northern Ireland only)
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person

If you have to be in an indoor space (like a shop, or a bus) it’s best to wear a face covering. You can see how to make and wear a face covering here.

The government have made guides to staying at home. These include an easy read guide, and guidance in other languages. You can view guidance in British Sign Language here.

While you're staying at home, it's important to take extra care of your wellbeing and mental health. We've published an article on how to cope if you're feeling isolated. And the charity, Mind, have put together some helpful guidance on wellbeing and coronavirus.

Shielding measures for people who are extremely vulnerable

Strict shielding measures for people in the UK who are classed as extremely vulnerable were introduced in March. These people are at very high risk of severe illness and hospital admission from coronavirus (COVID-19) because of an underlying health condition. Guidance on what makes someone higher risk from coronavirus has also been published by the NHS.

If you have conditions or health issues, as well as Parkinson’s, that put you at extremely high risk, you will have received a letter or text message from the NHS advising you to shield yourself. If you received one, it’s important to continue to follow the shielding guidance. If you have questions or concerns, you can call your GP. 

You can see the shielding measures listed in this link on the gov.uk website.

Support and self-isolation

I'm staying at home or isolating and I need practical help – what are you doing to support me?

We know people are finding it hard to get practical support, especially when you're staying at home isolating. Things like how to get grocery shopping or finding opening times for a local pharmacy are increasingly difficult. In England, you can contact the NHS volunteer responders.

We can support you to find practical help - locally. Please call our helpline

You can also read about how we’re fighting for you in this crisis, all over the UK.

    Staying up to date on coronavirus around the UK

    Current information and guidance for the UK can be found:

    These sources reflect the most up to date information and will be updated as the situation progresses.

    Join our Facebook group

    Many people are feeling concerned or more anxious because of coronavirus. We know that some of the advice means a lifestyle change. This group is a place to connect while spending less time with others. You do not have to have Parkinson’s to be part of this community. It’s for friends and family too.

    We're here for you

    We’re here for you throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Using our support tool, choose the topics that are important to you. We’ll show you the information that matters to you.

    What we’re speaking out on during the coronavirus crisis

    We’re supporting and sticking up for people with Parkinson’s. Here are some of the things we’re fighting for right now.

    Help us be here when people need us most

    Because of the coronavirus crisis, over a million people with Parkinson’s, family members, friends and carers in the UK need us more than ever.

    You can help us build an online community for people who are isolated, provide more tailored exercise-classes, and boost our helpline capacity.

    You can help us be here for people when they need us most.

    Donate now