According to Dr Marr we should be wearing masks and avoiding "casual" hugs.
There are lots of things we have been missing for a couple of months now. Frothy coffees, play-dates and simply spending time with our close friends. I think hugs are pretty much top of the list for a lot of us though. As humans we crave a certain amount of physical connection with other people. Our children also benefit from positive touch. Is it possible to hug someone during a pandemic?
There is something powerful about embracing someone you love. Science tells us that they actually biologically increase our happiness levels because they literally raise our oxytocin levels. We have seen a number of creative ideas across the globe when it comes to hugging during a global pandemic. One family created a special curtain/veil whereby a daughter could finally, and safely, feel her mother's embrace for the first time in several weeks. She described it as feeling like "home".
Lindsay Marr is one of the world leading experts on disease transmission control. In an interview with The New York Times she spoke about the safest way to hug during a pandemic and while she couldn't guarantee that a hug would come without risks, she could certainly offer some tips that will help reduce the risk of virus transmission.
In The New York Times interview Lindsay Marr said that she would
“hug close friends, but I would skip more casual hugs,” Dr. Marr said. “I would take the Marie Kondo approach — the hug has to spark joy.”
According to Lindsay Marr if you avoid talking and coughing while hugging the risk of transmitting infection "could be very low". The reality is that avoiding hugs is probably safest but in times when you need a hug wear a mask and consider the following.
Avoid Hugging Face To Face
According to Dr Marr this position can come with more risks because it allows the breaths of the "huggers" to mingle due to the close proximity of their nose and mouths.
Don't Face The Same Direction
When two people are hugging cheek to cheek and looking in the same direction it means that
"each person’s exhaled breath is in the other person’s breathing zone"
Hug Around The Waist
This one applies to hugging children in particular. Because they are smaller in height they may naturally hug you around the waist. This position may pose less risk according to Dr Marr. It lowers the risk of droplet exposure as faces are far apart especially if the adult looks away and does not breathe down on the child. However masks and faces may contaminate clothing so Dr Marr recommends
" you might consider changing clothes, and wash your hands after a visit that includes hugs "
Kiss On The Back Of The Head
Dr Marr's interview with The New York Times includes some incredible illustrations by Eleni Kalorkoti. This point in particular is illustrated beautifully. It shows a grandparent kissing the back of their grandchild's head. Dr Marr says that this exchange means that the grandparent is only minimally exposed to the child's breath. However the child can be exposed to the adult's breath so it is recommend to kiss through a mask.