Managing Your Parkinson’s Symptoms This Winter
Tuesday, 27th June 2023

As the weather continues getting colder, it’s important to remember that Parkinson’s can increase your sensitivity to cold temperatures and winter may worsen your Parkinson’s symptoms. Here are some tips to manage your Parkinson’s (or help a loved one) this winter: 

1) Be careful outside

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) recommends trying to go out during daylight where possible, when it’s warmer and there are more people around to help in case of emergency. This is particularly the case in more extreme temperatures such as travelling overseas or visiting the snow. Wear layers and cover up to stay warm.  

2) Keep your living space warm 

When you’re at home, it’s important to keep your space warm. Parkinson’s affects your nervous symptom, which controls body temperature. This makes you more sensitive to both heat and cold. You can stay warm at home by heating the rooms you’re in (if available) and/or layering up with light clothing, and adding layers like a hat and socks if you get cold at night. 

3) Stay active

Although it’s more tempting than ever to stay inside and slow down in Winter, staying active is still vital for your physical and mental wellbeing. Plus, getting up and about has the added benefit of keeping you warm! The good news is that there are now plenty of workout and exercise options you can do from home and online if you want to stay home or avoid the cold weather outside. For example, PD Warrior offers specially designed neuroactive exercises to retrain your brain and improve Parkinson’s symptoms and provide online coaching as well as an online 10-week challenge.

Listen to the Shake It Up Show podcast to find out from guests like Sandra, Emma and Christine about how exercise – from yoga to hiking and gymnastics – has helped them to manage their Parkinson’s.

4) Be mindful of fall risks

Parkinson’s can affect your gait and balance so it’s important to be extra careful when out in snow, ice or rainy conditions. You can stay safe by:

  • Wearing shoes with low heels or flat, rubber soles. These provide better traction.
  • Checking for wear and tear in any walking aids you use, such as a walking stick or walker.
  • Allowing extra time to get to your destination if walking, and being cautious on slippery surfaces.

5) Manage your mental health

Parkinson’s can affect your mental health and MJFF notes that depression is more common in people living with Parkinson’s disease. Shorter days, colder weather and more time in side may lead you to feel down. Watch out for depressive symptoms and talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you need help.

6) Take precautions to stay healthy

According to MJFF, when people with Parkinson’s get sick with any illness – including the flu or COVID-19, your Parkinson’s symptoms (motor and non-motor) can temporarily worsen. Their tips to protect yourself and your health – as well as others – in winter and flu season include:

  • Get a flu shot – a vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu.
  • Continue pandemic precautions – regular handwashing, staying home when sick and sneezing/coughing into your elbow are all common-sense precautions to guard against respiratory illnesses.
  • Watch for new symptoms – Any illness can bring on new PD motor and non-motor symptoms or increase ongoing ones, such as mood changes and fatigue. Talk to your GP about anything new.
  • Check with medical professionals before taking over-the-counter medications – Ask which medications are safe or might have possible side effects/drug interactions.
  • Take care of yourself – Healthy diet, regular exercise, and prioritising sleep are all important to manage your Parkinson’s symptoms as well as reducing risk of illness.

Download a Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research guide to the Flu and Parkinson’s