Health

Is it time to stop shaking hands

The traditional handshake has been around for a long time. According to Wikipedia, the first documented handshake on human history can be seen on the monument of Kalhu, where it shows the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III and Marduk-zakir-sumi I of Babylon shaking hands. However, handshakes can be a terrific way to pass germs. Although we are all taught to properly wash our hands, I think many of us are guilty of not doing it correctly or often enough. In case you forget, I am including the proper hand washing technique at the bottom of the article.

The curious part of me has always wondered if there is a better way of greeting a person that reduces the spread of germs. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a new study from Dr. Dave Whitworth and colleagues looking precisely at this issue. The authors used rubber gloves covered with a thick layer of E. coli. They exchanged handshakes, high fives, and fist bumps. The found that fist-bumps had a reduction of bacterial transmission by 90% when compared to traditional handshake. Even giving high-fives reduced bacterial transmission by over 50% than the traditional handshake.

So the question is should we stop shaking hands and start fist bumping everyone? I think my Infectious Disease colleagues might be very happy with such action. So who wants to start the fist bumping movement with me?

Proper hand washing technique

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

 

References:

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Dr. Sean

Sean Hashmi, MD, MS, FASN is a practicing Nephrologist and Obesity Medicine Specialist in Southern California. He is founding director of SELFPrinciple.org, a non-profit, non-commercial site focused on evidence based nutrition, health, and wellness.
Dr. Hashmi graduated from the University of California, San Diego Medical School. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at UCLA-Olive View Medical Center followed by a fellowship in Nephrology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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