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'Fist Bump' May Beat Handshake for Cleanliness

U.K. researchers found it transferred about a tenth of the bacteria that gripping hands did
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robin Foster

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- British researchers report that an alternative to the traditional handshake might spread far fewer germs around.

In their experiments, the scientists found that clasping hands transferred about 10 times more germs from one person to the other than what is known as a fist bump. They suggest the more casual exchange might suffice as a cultural substitute for the firm gripping of hands.

The findings are published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

"Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals," corresponding author David Whitworth, a researcher with the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, said in a journal news release.

"It is unlikely that a no-contact greeting could supplant the handshake," Whitworth acknowledged. "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."

One expert in the United States agreed.

"From a medical and social viewpoint, fist bumping is the way to go in exchanging social pleasantries while decreasing the transmission of bacteria and viruses -- everything from common colds to MRSA can be transmitted by handshakes," said Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency room physician at The Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, N.J.

"We touch door knobs and hand rails multiple times throughout the day," he said. "We sneeze and cough into our hands and then we shake hands which serves as a transport of transmission of these germs. The fist bump is a quick interaction and decreases germ transmission."

However, another expert was not convinced by the new findings.

"Hand-to-hand contact is a known way of spreading germs," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "The issue is that unwashed hands carry germs, and the recipient touches their face and introduces germs into the body. Hand bumping may not be better insurance against spreading infection," he added.

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