Personal Health

Maybe Fist Bump Next Time? Handshakes Have Much Higher Risk of Making You Sick

A strong handshake passes on as many as 10 times the number of bacteria compared to bumping fists.

Traditionalists may be inclined to disagree, but a new study has revealed that fist bumps and high-fives are better greetings than firm handshakes —at least in terms of your health.

In fact, even adopting a limper, weaker grip when meeting people would have a noticeable impact on the spread of infectious diseases, experts have said.

The researchers from Aberystwth University found that a strong handshake passes on as many as 10 times the number of bacteria compared to bumping fists.

A high-five reduces exposure by roughly half compared to a handshake, the scientists said.

Using rubber gloves, Dr. Dave Whitworth and PhD student Sara Mela dipped one hand into a bacterial soup, coating it with E. coli.

They then performed a range of hand gestures of various intensities, recording which greetings passed on the most bacteria. Whitworth, a senior lecturer at Aberystwyth, said the hygienic nature of the fist bump was in part due to its speed as well as there being a smaller contact area.

“People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands. But if the general public could be encouraged to fist bump, there is a genuine potential to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.”

The study has been published in the American Journal of Infection Control, and comes on World Hepatitis Day and with viral diseases like Ebola making headlines like never before.

It is not the first time it has been proposed that there are more hygienic alternatives to shaking hands—and doctors in the US have previously argued that the traditional practice should be banned altogether.

But Whitworth told the BBC: “There's a lot of inertia into changing this, a handshake is a badge of office and medics are trained to have a firm handshake to infuse patients with confidence, but you've got to ask is that appropriate behaviour.”

He added that the study, aimed at a wider audience than the medical community, was inspired by increased measures at promoting cleanliness in the workplace through the use of hand-sanitisers and keyboard disinfectants.