Understanding coronavirus and Parkinson’s

We’ve all seen coronavirus (or COVID-19) in the headlines. Our priority remains supporting people living with Parkinson’s. That’s why we’ve gathered the facts and guidance to help answer some of your most common questions about coronavirus and Parkinson’s.

This page was originally published on 3 March 2020, and was updated on 26 March 2020 at 3:32pm. 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 UK guidance. For details of postponements, and updates on specific activities, please view the relevant pages on the website.

Our helpline and information and support services are still here with support for you.

We will continue to update our website as new information becomes available.

We’re here for you. Whether you need advice on coronavirus, or on staying connected during this challenging time, we’re here to support you.

Stay at home

On 23 March 2020 the Prime Minister announced a strict stay at home message. People will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • one form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

When you leave the house, for any of these reasons, you should avoid busy spaces and keep a distance of around 2 metres (6 feet) between you and other people.

The government have made guides to staying at home. These include an easy read guide, and guidance in other languages.

You can go outside once each day for exercise and physical activity. Spending time in the garden, or taking a walk around the park can help you mentally and physically.

You might need to take extra care of your wellbeing and mental health. The charity, Mind, have put together some helpful guidance on wellbeing and coronavirus. It’s also a good idea to look out for people who are more vulnerable or more isolated. Pick up the phone. Pop a postcard through the door. Build an online community. It’s important to stay connected.

Shielding measures

On 22 March 2020, the government announced that they were introducing more rigorous shielding measures for 1.8 million people in the UK. These people are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) because of an underlying health condition. Parkinson’s is not listed as a condition in this extremely vulnerable group.

The advice for people with Parkinson’s is to stay at home.

If you have other conditions or health issues that put you at extremely high risk, you will receive a letter from the NHS advising you to shield yourself. These letters will start to arrive on Tuesday (24 March 2020). If you’re going to receive one, you will have it this week. Follow the shielding guidance in the letter.

Shielding measures are:

  1. Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  2. Do not leave your house.
  3. Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces for example family homes, weddings and religious services.
  4. Do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.
  5. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.

Use the phone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

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 groups include everyone over 70, people who are pregnant, and people with certain conditions. The conditions include Parkinson’s.

However, people with Parkinson’s don’t have a greater risk of catching coronavirus than anyone else.

We recommend following NHS and government precautions, wherever you are in the UK.

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

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new illness. As a result, 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. 

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.

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

Staying up to date on coronavirus around the UK

The UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate, at the time of writing. 

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.

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

People with Parkinson’s don’t have a greater risk of catching coronavirus than anyone else. But they do have an increased risk of severe illness if they get coronavirus.

We understand this is an anxious time for people with Parkinson’s and also people living with them. Following government and NHS advice, you should continue with sensible precautions such as good hand hygiene and staying at home.

If you are caring for someone with Parkinson’s, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and to reduce their risk at the current time. Ensure you follow advice on good hygiene such as:

What is self-isolation and what does it mean for me?

Isolation or self-isolation means stopping all face-to-face contact for a short period of time to protect others and slow down the spread of coronavirus. The NHS advice on isolation varies according to your situation. If you think you or someone in your household should be self-isolating, please visit the NHS website for full guidance on how to do this.

While you can’t be in face to face contact, you can still keep connected through phone calls, online forums and social media. You might want to join our Parkinson's Facebook community group. This group is a place to connect while spending less time with others.

Ask a friend, neighbour or delivery driver, to bring essential items you need like food or medicine. They should leave them on your doorstep for you to collect.

I'm staying at home or isolating and I need practical help – what further support is available?

Our team is rapidly developing a new initiative that will help people find practical help in their communities, right across the UK. We know people with Parkinson’s need our support, especially when you're in isolation. We’re working hard to make sure that we can connect you with support in your area – things like how to get grocery shopping or finding opening times for a local pharmacy. We’ll be set up to provide this very soon.

In the meantime, if you do need support finding practical help, please call our helpline

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. 

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.”

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.

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.