The Bizarre New Way You'll Be Hugging People, According to Experts
The new normal of giving your loved ones a good squeeze may feel strange—but it should keep you safe.
The lockdown brought on by COVID-19 has left people missing everything about pre-pandemic life, from their favorite shops and restaurants to being able to travel. But for many, the simple act of being able to give your friends and family a good squeeze has been especially missed. And now that the beginning phases of reopening may have you seeing loved ones for the first time in months, you're probably wondering if you can safely hug your nearest and dearest. Based on a report from The New York Times, you can—as long as you adapt a new way of doing it. It turns out the safest approach to hugging amid the coronavirus involves coming in from behind or turning your faces in different directions as you embrace.
Doctors stress that avoiding hugs altogether is still ideal since there is no clear understanding as to how contagious people can be. But they suggest that anyone embracing a loved one should do it very quickly while holding their breath and turning their face in the opposite direction of the person they're hugging to avoid passing aerosol droplets between one another. Once you've let go, it's best to move back six feet apart, avoid breathing on one another, and wash or sanitize your hands immediately.
It's also suggested that smaller children can hug adult relatives around the waist or knees relatively safely. Doctors still recommend looking in different directions to avoid breathing on one another, and possibly changing clothes if the child's face mask comes in contact with the adult. Grandparents can also be extra cautious by approaching their grandchildren from behind and kissing them on the back of their heads through their mask, minimizing exposure on both ends.
Of course, doctors advise against ever hugging anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 such as coughing, fever, or sore throat.
But that aside, the danger of exposure to coronavirus during a brief hug is thought to be relatively low. "If you don't talk or cough while hugging, the risk should be very low," Linsey Marr, PhD, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech and leading expert on airborne disease transmission, told The New York Times.
Ultimately, most experts agree that you should aim for quality over quantity when it comes to embracing friends and family. "I would hug close friends, but I would skip more casual hugs," Marr said The Times. "I would take the Marie Kondo approach—the hug has to spark joy."
And once there's a vaccine, of course, we can go back to hugging the normal way. "If we have a good vaccine, perhaps the first thing I'd do is more hugs," Christina Ludema, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Indiana University, told The Times. And for more info on how to see loved ones safely, check out 7 Things You Absolutely Should Not Be Doing With Friends Right Now.