Contrary to popular belief, hospitals are not a “safe-zone” for catching an infection. In fact, infections transmitted in health-care facilities kill at least 80,000 Americans each year. What’s the common culprit? The germ-spreading handshake.
According to a recent study in the American Journal of Infection Control, a fist bump could be a much safer greeting between physician and patients. David Whitworth, a biochemistry lecturer at Aberystwyth University in Wales, “found that the handshake transferred 10 to 20 times more bacteria than a fist bump,”
“Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious disease between individuals,” Whitworth and colleagues report in the American Journal of Infection Control.
It’s debatable whether knocking knuckles can stand in for the familiarity of an open palm. Mark Sklansky, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of California at Los Angeles, has doubts. “Some people feel it’s not appropriate in a medical setting,” he says. “I find squeezing someone’s shoulder a nicer interaction.”
Whitworth also found that a high five transfers half as many bacteria as the handshake (though it’s perhaps best appreciated by pediatric patients).