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Ask the MD: Cold Weather and Parkinson's

Winter Forest

Editor’s Note: The information posted below was accurate when published in January 2019. For the most up-to-date information, be sure to check in with your local health department, physician and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For more on Parkinson’s and COVID-19, visit MJFF’s resource hub.

Parkinson's can increase your sensitivity to cold temperatures, and winter weather can make it harder to stay warm. A few tips to stay warm and safe in the midst of a frigid winter:

  • Don't go outside if you can avoid it.
    Make sure your pantry and medicine cabinet are stocked. If you do need food, medication or other essentials, see if a pharmacy or online service, family member or friend can provide. If you work, consider making arrangements to do so from home. 
  • If you must go outside, take precautions. 
    Go out during daylight, when it's relatively warmer and busier (more people around to help in case of emergency). Wear layers, and cover all exposed skin, even your nose and mouth. (Breathing cold air can be harsh.) Avoid icy surfaces which can increase risk of falls, wear shoes or boots with non-slip rubber soles, and be extra careful in these conditions if you use a rolling walker or cane. (Gripping devices can add traction to the bottoms of walking devices, but ice is still slippery!) 
  • Be careful getting to your destination. 
    When driving in winter weather, make sure you have emergency supplies: a blanket, extra gloves, snacks, water, etc. If possible you may want to use a transportation option such as Uber, Lyft, or a free or low-cost service in your community. That way you don't have to walk a long distance to the bus, subway station or your destination.
  • Keep warm while inside. 
    Once you get a chill, it can be hard to warm up. Dress in layers, use blankets or space heaters (follow safety tips and never leave heaters unattended), set the thermostat to a comfortable level, and eat warm foods (soups and tea, for example). 
  • Maintain your exercise routine.
    Moving less can lead to stiff muscles and pain. Even though you can't get to the gym or outside for your daily walk, you can still work out. Look to online videos, DVDs, or exercise handouts from your doctor or physical therapist. 

Read how people in the community manage winter weather and Parkinson's.

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