COVID-19 FAQ

Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is currently part of our daily lives, the Parkinson’s Foundation is addressing the top questions about the virus and Parkinson’s disease (PD). Our Helpline Specialists, 1-800-4PD-INFO, are here to assist you with any other questions that are not covered here.

This article was updated on August 31, 2021.

Expert COVID-19 Prevention Advice for people with Parkinson’s:

1. Wash your hands for 20 seconds frequently. Sing happy birthday twice while washing.

2. Socially distance: avoid crowds and wear a mask indoors when in public places.

3. In most cases, people with Parkinson’s should receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor.

4. If not vaccinated, people with Parkinson’s may have a more difficult recovery from COVID-19 if contracted.

5. Minimize cabin fever anxiety. Call or Facetime family and friends often. 

6. Consider switching appointments to telemedicine when possible.

7. If you get sick call your doctor before going in so they can be ready to protect you and others.

8. Obtain extra supplies of medications.

9. If you are considering bringing a loved one home from a nursing home, talk to the healthcare team first.

10. Avoid flights and limit travel.

11. Exercise outdoors when possible.

12. If you have Parkinson’s, get the pneumonia vaccine and flu shot.

1. What should the Parkinson’s community know about the COVID-19 vaccine?

Speak to your doctor first. In most cases, people with Parkinson’s should receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine provides protection if you are exposed to COVID-19 and it will allow your body to more quickly clear the infection. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is available to people 12 years and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are recommended for people 18 years and older. Although we are still some time from having data on Parkinson’s and COVID-19 specifically, it is advisable that those eligible for the vaccine should receive it if there is not a pre-existing medical condition. Find your nearest vaccine site here and visit the CDC Vaccine page for more information. 

2. Are people with Parkinson’s more at risk of developing COVID-19?

Living with Parkinson’s does not put you at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but it does make it harder for you to recover if you contract it. 

3. Do people with PD have a compromised immune system?

Those with PD have an intact immune system that functions well. We believe that in general the Parkinson’s disease immune system functions at a high level and is similar to the immune system in those without Parkinson’s.

4. Should I get the pneumonia vaccine?

Yes, regularly get pneumonia vaccinations if you have Parkinson’s.

5. Are people with PD more prone to lung issues?

Yes, people with PD are more prone to pneumonias and infections. Respiratory issues can make it difficult to take deep breaths, getting enough oxygen into the lungs. These potential issues are a reason those with PD are considered a high-risk group.

6. Should I get the flu vaccine?

Yes, every person with Parkinson’s should get the flu shot.

7. Should I wear a mask? If so, do you have any recommendations?

As long as COVID-19 is around, follow the CDC’s mask recommendations. Wear either a cloth or surgical mask ― both are good, but a surgical mask is better. Some covering is always better than none. When wearing a mask, avoid touching your face or eyes, especially after touching your mask.

8. Medication questions:

pillsAny advice for obtaining extra supplies of medications?

We advise calling your doctor’s office and attempting to obtain a prescription for a three-month medication supply if possible. You may need to contact and push your insurance company for authorization, as some companies may only allow one-month supply.

Should I prepare for a shortage in Parkinson’s medication?

Yes, the safest thing you can do is get a three-month supply of your medications. This will likely get you through the worst of the coronavirus issues in case a shortage emerges. Right now, in areas where the medication factories are located, like China, they are starting to get them back up and running.

Are over-the-counter cold and flu medications safe to use with levodopa-carbidopa? For example, Mucinex Fast-Max has a caution about MAOI drug interactions.

Over the counter medications are safe in general, but a few things to watch out for include MAO-B inhibitors (selegiline, rasagiline, Xadago, others) should not be mixed with dextromethorphan which is common in many cough syrups. Also, if you have high blood pressure avoid drugs with pseudoephedrine. We have a blog article on the topic here.

9. Should I keep going to my scheduled doctor’s appointments?

Call your doctor’s office and ask if it is necessary to come in person for a visit. In many cases medication refills and adjustments can be performed over the phone or by telemedicine. If it is recommended you attend in person, wash your hands, call ahead and avoid crowded waiting areas.

10. When my mother goes to the hospital for other issues related to her Parkinson’s they usually keep her overnight for observation. If her symptoms are not severe or lasting 24 hours, should she stay home?

Depending on your local  COVID-19 cases, call the hospital ahead of time as some hospital emergency rooms are full. In emergencies call the doctor’s office or emergency room and let them know you are coming, so preparations can be made for your arrival. Try to avoid crowded waiting rooms.

11. My Parkinson’s affects my blood pressure. How might COVID-19 affect me?

In general Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s medications both lower the blood pressure. Watch out for “passing out” or dizziness when changing position (e.g. standing). Hydration, compression stockings, abdominal binders and in some cases medications may be helpful. If the problem is blood pressure that is too high, then a conference between your Parkinson’s doctor and the internist would be the next step. Sometimes it is supine hypertension and the head of the bed needs to be elevated. Sometimes, changing Parkinson’s medications with your doctors instruction can help. It is important to establish cause before treatment is initiated.

12. Should I travel? Should I fly?

We do not recommend that people with Parkinson’s fly at this time. Limit travel and socially distance. If travel is necessary, check COVID-19 numbers of your destination and wear a mask in public places. Know that some international destinations require proof of vaccination. Visit the CDC COVID-19 Travel page to learn more.

13. Should I go to group exercise classes and support groups?

Stay home, avoid indoor group exercise classes and support groups. Generally, if you are vaccinated, outdoor exercise classes should be safe. Many groups are offering online classes. We recommend safe exercise and support through resources on the internet such as PD Health @ Home virtual programs and PD Conversations.

14. Rehabilitation facility and nursing home questions:

nurseIs it safer to keep my loved one in a nursing home or bring her/him home?

You should do everything you can to try to safely keep your loved one in the facility with the around the clock care and resources. Ask the facility for vaccination data for both staff and residents. Don’t be so quick to remove your loved one from a nursing home or facility. Talk to your doctor and medical team first. If you decide to make the move, make sure you have the right gear, medication and support.

Where is my loved one most likely to get better care and access to treatment if they develop symptoms (at a nursing home or if I take them to the hospital)? 

It is best to use the screening recommended for COVID-19 by the CDC. Each nursing facility has a doctor and if the screening tests at the bedside suggest it, a COVID-19 a protocol will be followed, and the doctor will arrange isolation and appropriate next steps for potential transfer and formal testing.

What should I do if my loved one is quarantined in a nursing home and I am not allowed to visit?

This is a tough situation and we recommend regular phone calls and video-chats.

My husband is in a nursing home and has dementia. He becomes delusional and hallucinates when he doesn’t see me regularly. How can I address the “side effects” of social isolation if I can’t visit?

First, our hearts go out to you and your family. A few strategies we have recommended include regular telephone calls, use of telemedicine and in exceptional situations sometimes moving back home, if support is available. This would apply only to families who have the right supplies and support to keep their loved one safe for several months.

I live in a nursing home. Should I try to temporarily stay with a relative?

Find out about the vaccination rate of the staff and residents at your facility. If it is low, you can talk to your family and doctor about changing facilities or an alternative living situation, even if it is temporary.

What can I do if I or my loved one is in a nursing home and plans to stay?

Nursing homes must follow strict CDC guidelines. It does not hurt to ask those in charge if they’re following these guidelines. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to play a role in reminding the people who are taking care of you to follow protocol, like washing their hands. Try to stay clean and socially isolate, staying six feet away from others, when possible. Get on Facetime and call friends and family as often as possible.

15. Is there anything I can do to prevent getting COVID-19?

Getting the COVID-19 vaccination greatly improves outcomes should you contract COVID-19. In addition to the vaccination, you’re your hands often, social distance, and wear a mask when in public places. In your home, limit visitors to and ideally take in no outside visitors.

16. Any advice for avoiding social isolation anxiety?

coupleWhen you socially isolate it can be easy to become distant. Get on Facetime, especially with loved ones in nursing homes/facilities, but also reach out to friends and family. We want people to know they’re cared for, talk on the phone as much as you can. Decrease the anxiety around cabin fever. Reach out. The power of social interaction is powerful to calm people down.

17. Should I get dental work done?

Any elective procedures such as dental cleanings or procedures should be delayed, if possible.

18.  Should I avoid taking ibuprofen if I think I might have COVID-19?

In the rise of COVID-19 there were false stories about ibuprofen worsening COVID-19. There is no evidence to support this. We reassure patients that ibuprofen and other medications recommended by your doctor are safe. If you have concerns, consider Tylenol or another alternative.

19. Should I be concerned with the Delta variant and other COVID-19 variants?

Viruses constantly change. In the case of COVID-19, the longer it lingers over time, the more infectious it may become. Known as the Delta variant, its characteristics have changed and the virus is easier to get and spread, even if you have been vaccinated. Those who are vaccinated have been shown to have much better outcomes and have greatly reduced rates of hospitalizations and death (if they contract COVID-19). To reduce the risk of being infected, wear a mask indoors in public places, especially if you are in an area of deemed to be high risk by the CDC (documented high infection rates). Fully vaccinated people who have been in contact with someone suspected or confirmed with COVID-19 should be tested three to five days after exposure. Visit the CDC page for the latest on COVID-19 and variants.

20. What should people with Parkinson’s know about the COVID-19 booster shot?

A booster will ensure that vaccinated people maintain protection against COVID-19. If you have already received two shots, a booster shot is defined as a third shot of the mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna); or a second shot if you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There is less known about the booster for Johnson & Johnson, and you should therefore ask your doctor which vaccine you should receive as a booster if you initially had the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. People who are most at risk, including the immunocompromised, should receive the booster first. This group of high-risk people may not, in some cases, build enough protection from their initial vaccinations. If you have Parkinson’s, talk to your doctor about the booster, as he or she may suggest you receive the booster sooner if you are in a high-risk group. If you have other diseases in addition to PD, the booster may also be recommended. Finally, in the U.S. it is recommended that everyone consider a booster eight months following your last COVID-19 shot. Visit the CDC page for the latest information on the vaccine booster.

Expert COVID-19 Prevention Advice for people with Parkinson’s:

1. Wash your hands for 20 seconds frequently. Sing happy birthday twice while washing.

2. Socially distance: stay home, limit visitors and cancel all group gatherings.

3. Know that all people with Parkinson’s are at higher risk.

4. Minimize cabin fever anxiety. Call or Facetime family and friends often.

5. Reschedule all non-urgent doctor’s and dentist appointments. If deemed necessary, ask for a telemedicine appointment.

6. If you get sick call your doctor before going so they can be ready to protect you and others.

7. If you must leave your home, wear a face mask and avoid touching your face.

8. Obtain three-month supplies of medications.

9. If you are considering bringing a loved one home from a nursing home, talk to the healthcare team first.

10. Avoid flights and travel.

11. It is safe to go on a walk outside, practicing social distancing.

12. If you have Parkinson’s, get the pneumonia vaccine and flu shot.

13. Ibuprofen is probably OK, if you are worried, take Tylenol.

The Parkinson’s Foundation is devoted to the health and wellbeing of the PD community. 
For our latest information on COVID-19 visit Parkinson.org/COVID19.

If you have questions about Parkinson’s contact our free bilingual Helpline at
1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636) or Helpline@parkinson.org

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