Of the many things we miss from our pre-pandemic lives, hugging may top the list. We asked scientists who study airborne viruses to teach us the safest way to hug.
There’s tremendous variability in how much virus a person sheds, so the safest thing is to avoid hugs. But if you need a hug, take precautions. Wear a mask. Hug outdoors. Try to avoid touching the other person’s body or clothes with your face and your mask. Don’t hug someone who is coughing or has other symptoms.
And remember that some hugs are riskier than others. Point your faces in opposite directions — the position of your face matters most. Don’t talk or cough while you’re hugging. And do it quickly. Approach each other and briefly embrace. When you are done, don’t linger. Back away quickly so you don’t breathe into each other’s faces. Wash your hands afterward.
And try not to cry. Tears and runny noses increase risk for coming into contact with more fluids that contain the virus.
While some of the precautions may sound like a lot of effort for a simple hug, people need options given that the pandemic will be with us for a while, said Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
Here are the Dos and Don’ts of hugging, based on the advice of Dr. Marr and other experts.