Hugging Safely During A Pandemic

By Rachel Puryear

Of all the things from the BC era (Before Covid), one of the things I miss the most is hugging friends without any hesitation. The same sentiment is shared by many. Virtual hugs are nice, but they are just not the same.

Two trees adjoined in such a way that a large branch from one is wrapped around the middle of the other, and they are leaning towards each other, so that they resemble two people hugging.

Fortunately, hugging (for real) can be quite safe, even in this pandemic, if some reasonable safety precautions are followed. This New York Times article depicts several pictorials of ways to hug safely, as determined by scientists.

In short:

  1. Wear masks while hugging people not in your household.
  2. Hugging outdoors is best.
  3. Avoid touching each other’s faces.
  4. Don’t hug if either of you feels ill or has Covid symptoms (fever, flu-like).
  5. Hug facing opposite directions (though it’s ok for kids to hug adults around the waist, as the height difference means your faces won’t touch).
  6. Stick with hugging closer friends who are already in your social bubble – the ones you miss hugging the most anyway.
  7. Wash your hands afterwards.

If these simple precautions are followed, then the risk of transmitting the virus while hugging is actually quite low, even if one person has the virus and is asymptomatic. Given the health benefits of hugging and human contact, those benefits should be weighed against the small risks of safe hugging. Hugging and affection boosts immunity, promotes healing, and provides numerous other health benefits, something important in a pandemic. By contrast, loneliness and isolation, and a lack of human contact, take a significant toll on physical and mental health. (Analogously, despite the risk of std’s, most people practice safer sex rather than total abstinence, especially since there are options to mitigate that risk.)

Furthermore, the reality is that some elders who are in fragile health and are socially distancing to avoid Covid may not see the end of the pandemic, and are rightfully concerned that they might have to avoid contact with their loved ones for the rest of their lives. If someone so situated chooses safe hugging with others wanting the same, rather than never hugging a loved one again, that is a perfectly valid choice.

In a study which interviewed 511 epidemiologists (disease control experts) in June, over half of the epidemiologists surveyed indicated that they would start hugging friends again within a few months to a year (the survey did not get into safe hugging precautions, so presumably it is referring to hugging without such).

Knowing this, I would willingly hug close friends and family members with reasonable precautions. Given the low risk, as well as the many benefits of hugging versus the harm of not hugging, and the ways to minimize risk; I believe that it is a good trade-off. Of course, your own decision should be what you are comfortable with – this post is only intended to inform you of more options.

Here’s a quote for the day: “The worst casualty of the epidemic is the loss of human contact.” ~ Eduardo Franco, Epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada

Thank you my lovely readers for reading! If this helped you, please share. Be safe, my friends, and stay healthy. Try to help others if you are able, and ask for help if you need it. We will all get through this together. xoxo

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