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Reduce HAIs by bumping fists instead of shaking hands

July 28, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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In interactions with residents, families and co-workers, if you replace handshakes and high fives with fist bumps, you’ll transmit significantly fewer bacteria and may prevent the spread of healthcare-acquired infections, or HAIs. That assessment is according to a study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

“Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals,” says corresponding author David Whitworth, PhD. “It is unlikely that a no-contact greeting could supplant the handshake; 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.”

Researchers from the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, reached their conclusions after studying a greeter who used one of the three forms of hand-to-hand contact wearing a sterile glove that had been immersed in a container of germs and then dried. The exchanges with others randomly varied in duration and intensity of contact.

After each exchange, the investigators immersed the receiving glove in a solution to count the number bacteria transferred during contact. They found that nearly twice as many bacteria were transferred via handshake compared with the high-five, and significantly fewer bacteria were transferred during a fist bump than during a high-five. In all three forms of greeting, more bacteria were transmitted the longer the contact lasted and the stronger the grip used.

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