Do's and Don'ts of Hugging During a Pandemic

Lizzy Buczak
June 04, 2020 - 12:43 pm

If you miss hugging your friends and loved ones, you’re not alone.

Throughout the months-long coronavirus pandemic, people have been encouraged to social distance by remaining 6-feet apart, making it impossible to hug friends and family.

However, as humans, we crave physical affection.

“Humans have brain pathways that are specifically dedicated to detecting affectionate touch,” Johannes Eichstaedt, a computational social scientist and psychology professor at Stanford University told The New York Times. “Affectionate touch is how our biological systems communicate to one another that we are safe, that we are loved, and that we are not alone.”

Physical affection releases feel-good hormones, reduces stress, puts you in a better mood, and even lowers blood pressure, according to Psychology Today.

Hugging is how we greet our loved ones and show them we care, which is why during the pandemic -- a time when we feel more lonely and isolated than ever -- people have gotten creative in order to hug.

Kelsey Kerr, an ICU nurse, had been isolating herself from her daughter, Kelly, for a month when she opted for a sheet from the laundry basket and proceeded to put it over Kelly for a quick embrace.

Paige Okray, a ten-year-old girl from Riverside, California, developed a safe way to hug her grandparents during the health crisis.

Creating the “hug curtain" involved using a shower curtain, a hot glue gun, Ziploc bags and disposable plates.

The good news is that there is a way to hug your loved ones despite COVID spreading via person-to-person contact.

Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech and one of the world’s leading experts on airborne disease transmission, told the publication that the “risk of exposure during a brief hug can be surprisingly low.”

“We don’t know how many infectious viruses it takes to make you sick — probably more than one,” she said, adding, “If you don’t talk or cough while hugging, the risk should be very low.”

If you do decide to hug someone, here are some do's and don'ts:

Do’s

- Do keep it brief
- Do wear a mask
- Do hug outdoors
- Do facing the opposite direction
- Do let children hug you around knees or waist
- Do kiss your grandchild on the back of the head
- Do wash your hands after

Don’ts

- Don’t hug face-to-face
- Don’t hug cheeks together, facing the same direction
- Don't hug someone coughing or exhibiting COVID symptoms

Other precautions include backing away quickly so you don’t breathe into the person’s face and refraining from crying because tears and runny noses increase the risk of coming in contact with fluids.

ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton also advised taking into account a person’s age (older people are more at-risk to contract the disease), if they have any pre-existing conditions, and how many other people everyone has had contact with.

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