By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RN
At this point in the epidemic, some of us could really use a hug. A good, old-fashioned bear hug – the kind that makes us feel like everything’s going to be all right.
So, how dangerous is a hug during COVID-19, anyway?
Some experts say that hugging is not very risky if you do it right. But before we discuss safe hugging technique, understand that you need to consider in advance who you’re planning to hug – and where the hug will take place. The more people you hug, the greater your risk; so, limit your hugging to those closest to you (and only if they are following the COVID safety guidelines). You should avoid hugging people in high-risk groups due to age (over 60) or medical conditions (lung disease, cancer, and so on). Like many activities, hugging outdoors probably is less risky than embracing within a closed space.
Once you’ve planned the who and where you need to follow good hugging technique to keep the situation as low-risk as possible:
- Get consent to hug someone before you actually go in for the clinch
- Wear a mask
- Hold your breath as you approach the other person for the hug
- Turn your head away as you embrace for a few seconds
- Keep holding your breath (don’t talk or even whisper)
- Exit the embrace and immediately back at least six feet away
- Turn your head away from the other person and exhale
Using this technique reduces the risk of either person inhaling the other’s breath – which could include coronavirus particles, even if neither of you has symptoms of COVID-19. Remember, it’s possible to spread the virus when you’re asymptomatic (infected but don’t have symptoms) or pre-symptomatic (infected but now showing symptoms yet).
If you take care to plan your hugs in advance and avoid inhaling the other person’s breath during the embrace, then hugging probably is a relatively low-risk activity, even during COVID-19. And who couldn’t use a hug right now?