The hug is back for the fully vaccinated

With more than half of eligible Ottawa residents fully vaccinated, friends and family are busy sharing hugs, and that long-awaited touch will help our mental health, according to an Ottawa child psychiatrist.

'We've all been starving for touch during this pandemic', says child psychiatrist

An Ottawa family documented their post-vaccination hugs and shared them on social media. (Supplied photos)

The hug is back — at least for many of us.

With about 500,000 people in Ottawa fully vaccinated — 54 per cent of those eligible to get the vaccine — some are clamouring to give and get hugs. They're also sharing their photos online as they reunite with loved ones.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has given the green light to share a hug if you have both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and at least two weeks have passed since your second dose.

Hugs are beneficial for many reasons, said Dr. Michael Cheng, a child psychiatrist at CHEO, eastern Ontario's children's hospital in Ottawa.

"Humans are a species that need to touch," said Cheng.

CHEO psychiatrist Dr. Michael Cheng says touch is vital for all humans. (André Coutu/CHEO)

Studies have shown babies require touch for normal human development, and that need doesn't change as we grow older, Cheng said — a way for humans to soothe each other and form a connection. 

"We continue to need this when we're adults, when we're upset. Sometimes all we need is a hug and in fact, we don't want people to talk," he said. 

"During the beginning [of the pandemic], I remember ... not being allowed to touch yourself in the face, for example. So, yes, we've all been starving for touch during this pandemic."

It's also a big relief to hug our elders again, said Cheng, who was recently able to hug his own elderly in-laws.

Hug stories

Recently, Ottawa resident Vanya Jodoin's in-laws drove up to see her husband and two daughters.

They made the trip specifically "because they could finally receive their hugs and they wanted them as soon as possible. It was a very special moment," she wrote.

Jodoin sent this picture of her mother-in-law, Audrey Jodoin, hugging granddaughter Ari Jodoin after a 16-month wait.

Audrey Jodoin hugs her granddaughter Ari. (Submitted by Vanya Jodoin)

Vanya Jodoin also sent in this photo of Audrey hugging her son Tim.

"I haven't been able to see my grandfather (who is 89) because he lives in a Toronto-area retirement home. I was finally able to see him last week after my second vaccine and we enjoyed a nice two hour visit together," Stephanie Rodrigue wrote to CBC.

A reunion between Stephanie Rodrigue and her grandfather Laureat Rodrigue. (Submitted by SRodrigue)

Megan Beahen submitted this photo of her hug with friend Marie-Claire McMahon.

"We are both fully vaccinated and excited to hug again! Marie-Claire gives the best hugs," she wrote.

Megan Beahen, right, submitted this photo of her hug with friend Marie-Claire McMahon. (Submitted by Megan Beahen)

Samantha Moonsammy met her friends in Ottawa on the driveway for a big group hug.

"Hugs are the ultimate for our mental health and well-being," she said.

Samantha Moonsammy, left, is seen with her friends for a big group hug. (Submitted by Samantha Moonsammy)

Her brother-in-law Michael Brown recently got to hug his nephews Zion, Lexington and Beckham (Moonsammy's son), and Beckham's dad Matthew Gordon.

"For them to reunite with their extended family, it's priceless, to watch the joy in their eyes," said Moonsammy.

Sarah Cassidy sent a picture of her and her brothers Matt Connell and Chad Connell "hugging it out" once they were all fully vaccinated, meeting at the family cottage for a week together.

Sarah Cassidy with her brothers Matt, left, and Chad, right, at the family cottage. (Submitted by Sarah Cassidy)

Dr. Cheng acknowledges we don't all have someone to hug.

People often get massages, go swimming, or use weighted blankets to get the benefits of deep pressure stimulation on the body, and they can also hug themselves, or a dog, he said.

"There are many ways to get a hug."

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