Pressing the Flesh Can Take Its Toll on Politicians
Feb. 4, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Shaking hands and kissing babies go hand in hand
when it comes to seeking political office. Even in this time of media blitzes
and Internet campaigns, the bread-and-butter staple of pressing the flesh is
still fundamental to the process.
But can all that glad-handing leave politicians a little sore at the end of
Recent reports detail some of the risks of vigorous campaigning. George W.
Bush's spokesman Scott McClellan tells WebMD that the candidate recently showed
his hand after campaigning in four cities, revealing red and swollen knuckles.
But, McClellan says, Bush now says after "months of campaigning, my hands
are now in pretty good handshaking shape as long as no one tries any vise grip.
I'm good for a 1,000 or 1,200 shakes a day before redness and swelling set
in." The flip side, though, is Bush does shake nearly that many hands every
day, according to McClellan.
McClellan says Bush doesn't really take any precautions from all the germs
he must come into contact with, but occasionally will "use a hand sanitizer
before he eats or something. But he enjoys the handshaking."
In fact, McClellan jokes, all that handshaking may even be healthy for his
boss. "His recently released medical records show no indication of adverse
health effects, [so, perhaps] all the handshaking has actually contributed to
his excellent health," he tells WebMD.
Alejandro Badia, MD, is a surgeon with the Miami Hand Center. He says he's
"never seen anybody" with a problem from shaking too many hands, but he
agrees the hands could certainly get sore from the process. What about the
threat of repetitive stress injuries? Badia tells WebMD, "I don't really
believe, philosophically, that doing repetitive stuff with your hands,
particularly keyboard work, or even shaking hands, is generally going to cause
problems with your hand."
He says the people who develop problems like carpal tunnel syndrome may have
a predisposition to developing the problem, and a repetitive type of activity
could aggravate the situation. Badia agrees that, if anything, a politician
would have a predisposition to want to shake hands ... leaving just the risk of
germs. He says "most of your upper respiratory infections" are
transmitted by hand contact.
In fact, the CDC states handwashing is the single most important procedure
for preventing infections in hospitals. And with the abundance of bacteria,
viruses, and pathogens that travel via the hand, even the campaign trail can be
a risky place.
Should any budding politician want a piece of advice, WebMD reported on an
article in last April's Archives of Internal Medicine which found
washing with antibacterial hand cleansers was more effective than ordinary soap
and water at reducing hand contamination. And a healthy immune system can take
care of a lot of the everyday problems.