Study: Fist bumps beat handshakes in reducing the spread of germs

WASHINGTON — Cutting down on the spread of germs might be as simple as greeting a friend or coworker with a fist bump instead of a traditional handshake, according to a recent study titled “The fist bump: A more hygienic alternative to the handshake,” which appears in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Researchers at the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom dipped a sterile-gloved hand into a container of germs. Once the glove dried, the researchers exchanged a handshake, fist bump or high-five with a person wearing a sterile glove. The exchanges randomly varied in duration and intensity of contact, AJIC noted.

Almost twice as many bacteria transferred during a handshake compared to the high-five, with "significantly" fewer bacteria transferred during the fist bump as opposed to the high-five.

"Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals," said David Whitworth, PhD, co-author of the study. "It is unlikely that a no-contact greeting could supplant the handshake; however, for the sake of improving public health, we encourage further adoption of the fist bump as a simple, free and more hygienic alternative to the handshake."

This study stems from a recent call from the Journal of the American Medical Association to eliminate handshakes in hospital settings.


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