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Fist bumps less germy than handshakes, study says

Barack Obama

FILE - In this May 22, 2009 file photo, President Barack Obama fist bumps Chauncy Lorrell Gray, from Chicago, as he approaches the stage to receive his diploma at the United States Naval Academy graduation ceremony in Annapolis, Md. The familiar knocking of knuckles spreads only one-twentieth the amount of bacteria that a handshake does, researchers report. That's better than a high-five, which still passes along less than half the amount as a handshake. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

By
From page A2 | July 30, 2014 |

NEW YORK — When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, maybe the president is on to something with his fondness for fist bumps.

The familiar knocking of knuckles spreads only one-twentieth the amount of bacteria that a handshake does, researchers report. That’s better than a high-five, which still passes along less than half the amount as a handshake.

So fist bumps – popularized by Barack Obama and others – seem to be the wisest greeting, especially during cold and flu season, said researcher David Whitworth of Aberystwyth University in Wales.

The importance of hand hygiene is nothing new in medicine. But the researchers realized that while a lot of research focused on hands getting germy from touching doorknobs and other surfaces, only a few studies had looked at handshakes.

“And there are alternatives to handshakes. You see them on telly all the time – the fist bump and high-five and all that,” Whitworth said.

He and a student, Sara Mela, shook hands, fist-bumped and high-fived each other dozens of times for the research. One wore a glove covered in bacteria, while the other had a clean sterilized glove. After each greeting, they measured how much bacteria had been transferred.

Their results were published online Monday in the American Journal of Infection Control.

What makes the fist bump more sanitary? Mostly, it’s the smaller amount of surface area in contact between the two hands, an analysis suggests. The researchers did practice runs with paint to measure how much surface area each form of greeting involved.

“It’s a novel study,” though the results are not surprising, said Mary Lou Manning, president-elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. Her organization publishes the journal.

She said she hasn’t seen much fist-bumping or high-fiving in hospitals. Handshakes are more common– but they must be followed by good hand-washing, she added.

Whitworth said he hopes the norm changes. “In a hospital, you really don’t want people to shake hands. It’s an unnecessary risk,” he said.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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Discussion | 3 comments

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  • Old schoolJuly 30, 2014 - 10:07 am

    Fist bumps are a product of the new generation, who decided it was their signature of "hello" and "yes, I'm from the ghetto". I'll stick with the traditional handshake and take my chances, at least I won't be mistaken for those who's parents didn't raise them properly, show respect to others, etc. Not to mention following the sheep!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJuly 30, 2014 - 10:22 am

    Old school, huh? You're not too old school if you think fist bumps are something new or a "product of the new generation," hardly. The tradition has been credited to many different sources going back to the 1800's. Nothing wrong with it and I have actually met more than one high ranking management person that thought it was a cool gesture and ice-breaker.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJuly 30, 2014 - 10:26 am

    Old school, OR was that just a complaint aimed at Obama???)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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