Is Handshaking Compromising Your Health?

27th March 2017·Industry News

A great article from Deb today about how handshaking may not be the best decision you have ever made.

The handshake has been making global headlines yet again in the world of politics and reminding us all about the importance and challenges of this simple exchange.

The press has been buzzing about the awkward exchange between Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump. Before that everyone was talking about the first handshake between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Trump and there have been similar headlines about Trump’s handshakes with other foreign leaders.

President Trump was recently quoted in the Washington Post saying that shaking hands is “barbaric” and that he is “very much a germaphobe.”  According to the article, “Trump is keen to avoid microbes, particularly those transmitted via touch.”



You may be surprised to learn that each of us will shake about 15,000 hands in our lifetime. Unfortunately, however, 1 in 5 of those hands have not been washed after using the bathroom. In fact, only about 5% of people wash their hands correctly, which means that 14,250 of those handshakes will potentially expose you to all types of nasty germs including fecal matter.

But is the handshake really something we should be concerned about? According to microbiologist Jason Tetro, “Handshaking does have a darker side (microbiologically speaking). The CDC is frequently quoted as claiming that up to 80% of infection can be spread through hands. The allegation makes sense as many bacteria and viruses are known to survive on human skin for several minutes if not hours.”

Is the Fist Bump a Good Alternative to the Handshake?

Former U.S. President Barack Obama famously used the fist bump on occasion when greeting people. Fist bumping it turns out, “transmits significantly fewer bacteria than either handshaking or high-fiving,” according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.
It may be more hygienic compared to the handshake, but it turns out it is hard for many of us to shake our old habits. Healthcare writer Diane Bracuk recently wrote about her professional fist bump experience and how our deeply ingrained habits can be hard to break. “I don’t know what possessed me to try my first ever fist bump at an important literary event. Did I make a big social gaffe? Unequivocally yes, according to many experts.”

Diane offered some recommendations to help make your fist bump a success more often. For starters, she suggests letting the person see that you are approaching them with a closed fist and back it up by letting them know you are sick or just germaphobic and don’t want to spread germs. Finally, she suggests you get some practice in private so that you can deliver the fist bump with conviction – just like the traditional handshake.

So what do you think? Does the fist bump have a place as a professional greeting? Have you ever bumped the handshake for hand hygiene? Please tell us more by sharing your comments.



About the Author

PatrickBoshell.jpgPatrick Boshell is the Marketing Director for Deb Canada and the managing editor for Deb Group’s Hand Hygiene, Infection Prevention and Food Safety blog.

Patrick is an advocate for making hand hygiene contagious in the workplace.  He is also a social media enthusiast, using tools such as LinkedIN and Twitter to help educate the importance of effective hand hygiene and skin care to a global audience.  To connect with Patrick, please contact him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.

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