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Don’t shake your doctor’s hand — give her a fist-bump instead, advises a new study in the American Journal of Infection Control. Skipping the handshake could protect you from many types of harmful germs.
Scientists at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom tested the germ-exchange rates of handshakes, fist-bumps and high-fives to determine which mode of mano-to-mano contact spreads the most bacteria. In the study, one participant wore a sterile glove and exchanged various types of hand contact with other study participants. The sterile glove was analyzed and the number of bacteria present were counted.
The results showed that fist-bumps transferred a tiny fraction of the germs handed off during a handshake. High-fives transfer about half as many germs as a firm shake.
“Adoption of the fist-bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals,” said co-author, David Whitworth, PhD.
The handshake has been under fire by the medical research community as of late, with an article in JAMA calling for a ban on hand-to-hand greetings published in June.
Hand-hygiene in hospitals is a topic of intense study due to the emergence of more types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the negative environmental effects of antibacterial soaps and the realization that simple cultural changes could help to reduce the risks of infection in the first place.
Travis Daub is Director of Digital at PBS NewsHour.
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