fist bump
July 28, 2014

Fist Bumps May Be Better For Your Health Than Handshakes

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The traditional handshake is increasingly being replaced as a welcoming gesture by the fist bump, and that might be a very good thing, researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales claim in a new study.

Athletes do it, the lead characters from the television show Psych do it, and even the President of the United States seems to prefer touching knuckles to shaking hands, according to AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe. As it turns out, their preferred method of greeting is actually better for your heath, transmitting just one-twentieth as much bacteria as a handshake.

Writing in the August edition of the American Journal of Infection Control, senior lecturer Dr. Dave Whitworth and doctoral student Sara Mela used rubber gloves and a thick layer of E. coli to test three different methods of greeting: the handshake, the high-five and the fist-bump.

They dipped a glove into a bacterial broth, tested each of the greetings and then assessed the amount of germs that had been transferred from one person to another. They found high-fives transmitted half as many disease-causing pathogens as handshakes, and that fist-bumps passed on just 10 percent as many germs as handshakes.

“People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands. If the general public could be encouraged to fist-bump, there is genuine potential to reduce the spread of infectious diseases,” Dr. Whitworth said in a statement Monday.

Mary Lou Manning, president-elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (which publishes the American Journal of Infection Control), told Stobbe she was not surprised by the findings. While she said that handshakes are far more common than fist bumps or high-fives in hospitals, she said that they presented an “an unnecessary risk” and should be followed by a quality hand-washing.

What is it that makes the fist bump so much more hygienic? The study authors explain it is due in part to the fact it is a much quicker interaction than a handshake, and that a smaller area of the hand is involved. Since direct contact is needed for most microbes to move from one person to another, limiting how much of each person’s body come in contact with one another provides less of an opportunity for bacteria to be shared.

While Dr. Whitworth admitted the story seems very “whimsical” on the surface, he told BBC News there is “a serious message underneath. If there's a flu pandemic then handshaking might be something you want to think about or in a hospital with the spread of superbugs.”

“There's a lot of inertia into changing this, a handshake is a badge of office and medics are trained to have a firm handshake to infuse patients with confidence, but you've got to ask is that appropriate behavior,” he added, confessing that he still preferred the handshake over the fist bump, “but I do it as little as possible.”

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